Winner and Loser of the Week in Florida politics — Week of 11.6.22

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Ron DeSantis had a smashingly great week, but Donald Trump can't say the same.

Before we dive into the post-election edition of Winners and Losers, I have some personal news to share.

This is my final regular commentary for Florida Politics. After 6 ½ great years here and 51 years in journalism, I’m going to retire. Before I go, though, I wanted to share some observations and the gratitude I feel for the work this staff does every day.

I particularly want to thank FP founder and publisher Peter Schorsch for giving me the freedom to say what I wanted. Peter reached out to me in the auditorium at the Tampa Tribune while, along with my colleagues, I was learning the Tampa Bay Times had bought us and shut us down.

Peter ran SaintPetersBlog then — it later morphed into Florida Politics — and he turned me loose. That’s all a columnist can ask for. And in Florida, there is no shortage of topics on which to opine.

Along the way, as the FP newsroom grew, I had an inside look at how hard this staff works. The reporters are well-sourced, dedicated and professional. You can believe what they tell you.

That’s a big reason why this is the site where political figures go first.

Although I grew up in Ohio, I’ve lived most of my life here and saw Tampa grow from a small southern city into the metropolis it is today. I spent most of my years at the Tribune in sports — first as a reporter, then with a little fling as an editor and finally as a columnist.

I watched Wade Boggs in high school and told a skinny kid named Dwight Gooden that the New York Mets had drafted him. My courtside seat for the Magic Johnson and Larry Bird NCAA championship basketball game was sweet.

I was at the World Series when an earthquake struck San Francisco. The 2004 Summer Olympic Games took me to Greece. So much fun.

As a kid, I remember being fascinated by sports and politics. And after the Tribune moved me into a news columnist role, I got to scratch that political itch. When you love a profession as much as I love this one, it doesn’t seem right to call it work.

But it’s time to step aside and savor the role that has brought me unbelievable joy, that of being a grandfather. A second grandchild will join us next spring, and that takes priority.

So, this is my stop. Thank you for reading and responding; yes, even you trolls. Peter said I could drop in occasionally if I get the itch, and I might take him up that sometime.

For now, though, take care of yourselves and maybe light a candle for the Democrats. They’ve had a tough week.

Now, for the last time as keeper of this space, it’s on to our weekly game.

Winners

Honorable mention: Maxwell Alejandro Frost. In an otherwise dismal election, he was one of the few bright spots for Democrats. Frost defeated Republican Calvin Wimbish in Florida’s 10th Congressional District race. Frost becomes the first person from Generation Z to win a seat in Congress.

It wasn’t close. Frost received 59% of the vote.

Frost, an Uber driver, is 25, the minimum age required to run for the U.S. House.

“The perspective I bring as a young person, as a young Black person, as a young Black Latino person from the South, is important,” Frost told the New York Times.

He follows Val Demings as the representative for CD 10.

Almost (but not quite) biggest winners: Kathleen Passidomo and Paul Renner. They are the leaders of the Senate and House, respectively, and they might have the easiest job in the state.

With Republicans holding supermajorities in both chambers, they can achieve anything they want and cement GOP power for the foreseeable future.

And there’s nothing Democrats can do about that. They can’t even use administrative rules to slow down the process.

“Given the choice, hard-working families chose Florida values over the radical, socialist agenda that ridicules work, defames law enforcement, indoctrinates children, and cancels anyone who dares to challenge this backward vision for humanity,” Passidomo tweeted.

The biggest winner: Ron DeSantis. This might be the easiest call ever. He won re-election in a breeze, which everyone expected. He heads into his second term with a compliant supermajority in the House and Senate, so he doesn’t have to worry about having any sweat in passing his agenda.

And the national coverage of DeSantis’ landslide win focused on his chances against Donald Trump in the 2024 race for the GOP presidential nomination.

Rupert Murdoch, the founder of Fox News, left no doubt about who he wants as the Republican standard bearer in 2024. Fox and the Murdoch-owned New York Post had fawning coverage of DeSantis while dissing Trump. In a banner headline, the Post declared DeSantis is “DeFUTURE.”

Fox columnist Liz Peek declared, “The biggest winner of the Midterm Elections was without a doubt Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose landslide victory in the state of Florida was breathtaking.”

And she added, “The biggest loser? Donald Trump, whose handpicked loyalist candidates in a number of races, struggled to beat vulnerable Democrats. Once again, the former President may have cost Republicans control of the Senate in a year when it was theirs to lose.

“Many will conclude, on the basis of the Midterm 2022 results, that the Republican Party is ready to move on, without Donald Trump as its leader.”

Trump is widely expected to announce a third campaign for the White House. And he had a warning for DeSantis.

“I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering — I know more about him than anybody — other than, perhaps, his wife,” Trump said.

DeSantis, of course, has not declared he will run for President. He’s smartly letting others do that for him while simultaneously building support and raising tons of cash.

For now, that’s a winning strategy.

Losers

Dishonorable mention: Rick Scott. As head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Scott was tasked with developing strong candidates and helping guide them to victory.

But the predicted red tsunami turned into a red ripple.

And while it’s possible that Republicans can regain control of the Senate, much of the blame for the GOP’s shaky showing in those races falls squarely on Scott.

Put it this way: Scott really needs Herschel Walker to win a runoff election in Georgia. Otherwise, Scott’s status with his party will plummet, and his thoughts about challenging Mitch McConnell’s leadership should disintegrate.

Scott received criticism for the committee’s money problems, and McConnell blamed “candidate quality” for the subpar GOP showing.

Almost (but not quite) biggest losers: Democratic state lawmakers. It’s not easy being blue. They can look forward to, well … nothing in the next Legislative Session.

Oh, sure, Democrats can file all the bills they want. But those bills won’t even get out of committees unless Republicans feel especially generous (which they won’t). That’s because of the supermajority in the House and Senate we referenced above.

When current Republicans maneuver for the right to succeed DeSantis, Democrats can only fuss and fume. They’re powerless to stop, or even slow down the Republican agenda. They will be spectators while DeSantis positions himself for a presidential run.

Well, they could do one thing. Democrats could concede they’re mostly responsible for their mess and devise a cohesive plan to rebuild their image. They let Republicans label them as the “radical left” and “socialists,” and it stuck.

They hitched their hopes to abortion rights and largely ignored the economic issues Floridians faced.

That’s a surefire way to become irrelevant, which is what Democrats now face.

The biggest loser: Donald Trump. He may have created DeSantis with the endorsement that led to his gubernatorial victory in 2018. But with DeSantis now riding high and more Republicans looking to him in 2024, Trump must be talking to the walls at Mar-a-Lago.

That’s not just me saying that. The venerable Wall Street Journal editorial board dubbed Trump the election’s “biggest loser.”

“What will Democrats do when Donald Trump isn’t around to lose elections? We have to wonder because, on Tuesday, Democrats succeeded again in making the former President a central campaign issue, and Mr. Trump helped them do it,” the board said.

While Trump bristles and threatens DeSantis, the Governor ignores him and goes about becoming the GOP’s new face.

“If he did run, I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering. I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal.

Whatever Trump comes up with can’t be any worse than the deeds of this bumbling ex-President. Besides, they don’t call DeSantis “Teflon Ron” for nothing.

Several Trump-backed candidates lost, including Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. Trump blamed that endorsement on others, including his wife Melania, for urging him to back Oz.

Of course, Trump won’t go down without a fight, and he has plenty of MAGA true believers. But for the first time since he took control of the Republican party, more GOP members appear willing to openly challenge him.

He’s toast but doesn’t know it yet.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


10 comments

  • ScienceBLVR

    November 13, 2022 at 7:50 am

    Sure will miss you, Joe, but being an all in grandparent is more important, for sure. I still have hope that Florida is Florida, and not the country, and DeSantis or Trump will still struggle on the national stage. Voters can surprise us and the anemic GOP midterm performance in states other than Florida, demonstrates that. So still possible to hand our grandkids a decent inclusive country by defeating the authoritarian right wing extreme regime. Happy trails…

  • Pastor Sandell

    November 13, 2022 at 7:57 am

    Winners: America for historical upset of the now Christian nationalist, Christian fascist GOP
    Losers: The people of Florida for rewarding a far right party of grifters, scaremongers, and hate mongers
    YOU PEOPLE GONNA BURN IN HELL 🔥

  • Tom

    November 13, 2022 at 8:21 am

    Wishing you well Joe.

    I looked forward to your column every Sunday morning. I enjoy political debate and you always ensured that. You motivated me to offer my own winners and losers. My compliments and good wishes.

    Loser: Chameleon Crisp, Demings and Nikki Fraud, leading the Florida Dems into the politic abyss.

    Loser: Manny Diaz, Dem chairman. Unique achievement in turning Miami Dade, West Palm, and Hillsbourough red. What a chairman.

    Winner: FGOP Chairman Joe Grueters. Leading a powerful machine into battle with remarkable political precision.

    Champion: America’s Governor. With Camelot like governance, a whiz kid approach, public servant mind set and decency. Gov Ron led Florida through 100 yr pandemic, Surfside 9collapse, 2 direct hurricanes and one clean up, civil unrest and other outside challenges. Along with guiding Florida to tremendous prosperity.

    Guiding Florida with all time investment, $20 billion in savings and prosperous economy for all. He has reshaped Florida, as the beacon of freedom, family, liberty, and opportunity for all.

    People’s fled tyrannical blue state Govs in the East, Midwest and West, to Florida. Florida is the leading state in investment.

    DeSantis saved Florida for all people’s, even the 5% haters on FP. Lastly, it’s remarkable in today’s political environment to pull either parties voters in to crossover. Gov Ron, America’s Gov did so remarkably. His finest comments on election night, besides that woke goes to die, was in thanking all those that voted for him that did not do so previously.

    The landslide came from a influx of Dems, Hispanics, suburban women, blue collar, working class, middle class, and just peeps! 59.5% is for the ages! God Bless Gov Ron, Casey-wife and children.

    The haters like CBS 60 mints and the Dem hater, losers on FP didn’t land a finger.

    Do for America what you’ve done for Florida.
    On to the WH in two yrs. Enjoy!

    • Pastor Sandell

      November 13, 2022 at 9:07 am

      – On to the Whitehouse!
      That’s what we heard in 2020 but flop
      – Red Wave!
      That’s what we heard in 2022 but flop
      – On to the Whitehouse in 2024!
      That’s what we hear now but flop

      Only Florida is stupid enough to vote enmass for grifters, fascists, and liars. Too many neanderthals fell for the right wing propaganda. You people gonna roast in the hottest part of hell.

    • Joe Corsin

      November 13, 2022 at 9:35 am

      Just another bad call by FAKE TOM!!!
      Twas not a “Red Wave” or “Red Tsunami” as he suggested it would be…but only a red rain drop. Go the the bar and mention “Ron DeSanctimonious” and you will be beaten by the left and the Trump supporters at the same time. These are dangerous times for FAKE TOM!!! A beating is inevitable.

    • Mother Superior Slapshot, Hedman Academy

      November 13, 2022 at 9:41 am

      Goodness, who has the time to read all that, Tom. What a windbag you are. And you are so clueless, bless your heart.

      • Charlie Crist

        November 13, 2022 at 10:44 am

        I tried to help. Now all the Toms are in charge of Florida. Maybe this will turn people off from the GOP for good. People can only take so much toxic right wing propaganda and exploitation by the rich.

  • Mother Superior Slapshot, Hedman Academy

    November 13, 2022 at 9:39 am

    God bless you for all that you have done, you are a great journalist. Enjoy those grandchildren.

  • marylou

    November 13, 2022 at 10:23 am

    Thank you so much, Joe. We will miss you. Best wishes to you and your family.

  • tom palmer

    November 13, 2022 at 3:44 pm

    As another retired newspaper columnist, I wish you the best. I only wish this site would cover issues beyond the Hillsborough-Pinellas county line.
    ,

Comments are closed.


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