When I suggested over the weekend that Ron DeSantis was more likely to lose than win in Florida in 2022, it set off alarms across the spectrum. A few major media outlets tried to hush me, because they don’t want any damage done to their current ratings-friendly narrative about DeSantis being a force in 2024. Republican pundits laughed at me. And a couple Democratic strategists in Florida also tried to shush me, apparently because they believe the only way to win is to talk like you’re going to lose. But then James Carville happened.
Carville likes to spew some wacky personal opinions that are best ignored. For instance he did an interview published yesterday in which he inexplicably slammed “woke” culture. But if you look past that stupidity, Carville actually said something insightful and important about Florida in 2022.
Here’s what Carville said: “You now have Democrats saying Florida is a lost cause. Really? In 2018 in Florida, giving felons the right to vote got 64 percent. In 2020, a $15 minimum wage, which we have no chance of passing [federally], got 67 percent. Has anyone in the Democratic Party said maybe there’s nothing wrong with the state of Florida? Maybe the problem is the kind of campaigns we’re running?”
He went on to then claim that the Democratic campaigns being run in Florida are too woke, which makes no sense given that he’s citing the popularity of “woke” causes like raising the minimum wage and expanded voting rights as the supposed reason why Florida Democrats shouldn’t be running woke campaigns.
But set that particular pretzel logical aside, and Carville is correct when it comes to the real problem in Florida. The underlying numbers make clear that the state is highly winnable for Democrats, and the opportunity just isn’t being seized upon.
We can get into debates about what kind of campaigns the Democrats should run in Florida. But first we’ve got to acknowledge the fact that we can win. In fact the recent voting results on the aforementioned issue-based ballot initiatives suggest that the Democrats should win Florida, and that the state should be easier for the Democrats to win than the Republicans. After all, Florida voters appear to lean Democratic on the issues.
Once you figure out that the odds are actually in favor of you winning, the next step is to acknowledge that you have a clear path to victory. Tell everyone who will listen that the odds are in fact in favor of your party and candidate winning. The people of Florida lean Democrat on the issues, but most of them aren’t going to bother donating to the Democrats – or even make the effort to go out and vote Democrat – if even the Democrats themselves aren’t bothering to make clear that they have a strong chance of winning.
There’s a long running logic in political strategy circles that says you’ve got to act like you’re losing in order to win. If you admit the odds are in favor that you’ll win, then you risk people on your own side getting “complacent.” But that logic predates the internet era, where you can quickly build widespread and even national momentum for your candidacy if people believe you can win. No one bothers to get involved in a Governor’s race in another state if they’re getting promotional emails from their candidate that “we’re gonna lose.”
In any case, the ballot initiatives cited by Carville prove that Florida is indeed highly winnable for the Democrats in 2022. Yes, the Republicans are doing their best to enact voter suppression – but they’ve been doing that for the last few election cycles. It’s not a magic wand. Ron DeSantis only won by 0.4 points in 2018, and that was at a time when there was relatively no national effort to defeat him, because he was a non-incumbent without a national reputation.
Heading into 2022, DeSantis is arguably the most despised Republican incumbent in the nation. There are Democratic activists and liberal activists in all fifty states who are willing to collectively invest massive amounts of time, money, and outreach into the Florida 2022 race for Governor – but only if they’re made aware that, yes, DeSantis is highly beatable. If the Democratic strategists in Florida aren’t willing to say this out loud, then we have to.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report