What’s at stake in Florida’s Presidential Primary?

Not much. But Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis and 5 others appear on the GOP ballot statewide regardless.

Florida will hold its Presidential Primary Tuesday, though stakes are nothing close to what was imagined a year ago.

Two Florida candidates will appear on the Republican ballot — former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis. With 125 bound delegates up for grabs in a winner-takes-all state, the prize pot for Florida’s election is the biggest contest of the Primary season that hasn’t already been decided.

But since DeSantis suspended his presidential campaign days after the Iowa caucus, the first delegate-awarding contest, the marquis battle of Florida men has been put on hold.

Moreover, Trump last week already clinched the nomination. Wins in Georgia, Mississippi and Washington lifted the front-runner above the 1,215-delegate threshold to make him the presumptive and prohibitive nominee.

At least Trump appears on the ballot here. That means at least the Primary gives a chance for Trump to make a show of strength, if not a particularly monumental one.

“The PPP gives our voters a chance to formally bind our delegates for our presumptive nominee Donald J. Trump,” said Evan Power, Republican Party of Florida Chair. “Our voters turned out even though President Trump already had enough delegates to secure the nomination to show that they are ready to send Joe Biden back to his basement in Delaware.”

The Florida Democratic Party (FDP) canceled its Presidential Primary, submitting President Joe Biden as the only candidate for consideration and thereby making a vote unnecessary.

“On Tuesday, President Joe Biden will be declared the automatic winner of Florida’s democratic primary and approximately 60 municipal elections will be happening across the state,” FDP Chair Nikki Fried said. “While Republicans go out to vote in a GOP primary for a rematch that has already been decided, Democrats will have the opportunity to vote for candidates contesting seats in critical local elections.”

But for the most part, Florida’s Republican operatives, and even some Democratic ones, say there really is nothing to see here.

Steve Schale, a Democratic operative who worked for Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, summarized the consequence of the Florida’s voting on Tuesday “outside of any local votes” with an internet meme. It was captioned: “Absolutely nothing. Nothing what so ever!”

From a mathematical perspective, there’s no path for anyone to defeat Trump (or Biden), and no one is trying.

Nevertheless, a Primary goes on, statewide. Seven candidates qualified for the Republican ballot in Florida, though all but Trump have since suspended their campaigns.

Many have endorsed the presumptive nominee, including DeSantis, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and pastor-businessman Ryan Binkley.

But other candidates on the ballot have withheld support from Trump, including former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

There could still be a protest vote in the Primary, driven either by DeSantis loyalists or a fabled “Never Trump” vote.

But there has been no great push by former DeSantis campaign officials to drive up votes for the Governor. With a winner-takes-all awarding of delegates, the chances of any candidate winning more than Trump remains remote anyway, as he was leading Florida polls even without all his opponents dropping out.

“A huge win here in Florida was always anticipated for President Trump,” said Joe Gruters, Florida’s Republican National Committeeman who co-chaired the Florida arm of Trump’s campaign in 2016 and led the state party in 2020.

“Florida is his home state and Florida has always been Trump Country. Trump’s policies helped America become energy independent and led us to economic prosperity. Now, let’s think: Are we doing better now than we were four years ago? The answer is clear: under Trump’s leadership, we’re on the right track for even more success.”

On that front, Tuesday offers Trump the chance to show dominating support in his home state, and a one-time swing state at that.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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