Over the weekend I inexplicably created wide scale controversy, simply by stating that Ron DeSantis is more likely to lose than win in Florida in 2022. It wasn’t surprising that the mainstream media was upset by my words; after all, their plan to keep ratings up for the next year is to push the scary narrative that Desantis is inevitable in 2024, and I’m getting in the way of their narrative by pointing out that DeSantis has good odds of not even being around by 2024. I’m never surprised when media pundits (on the left and right) go to extreme lengths to protect their most ratings-friendly narratives.
But I was rather surprised that even some prominent Democratic strategists in Florida had almost allergic reactions to my assertion that DeSantis has good odds of losing. It was as if I had hurt their feelings by pointing out that the other side is vulnerable and beatable. Why on earth would political strategists react this way?
Then it hit me. We’ve all gotten those ridiculous fundraising emails from the Democratic Party that insist we’re going to lose badly – even in races that the Democrats are likely to win – and then they turn around and ask for donations. We all just roll our eyes at those emails and wonder why our own party is trying to convince us that any given race isn’t winnable. After all, if a race isn’t winnable, why would anyone bother to put in the kind of donations and volunteering and advocacy required to win it?
Maybe these kinds of defeatist emails were effective in previous eras, or maybe they’ve always backfired; I wouldn’t know. But in the internet era, these kinds of pitches are a disaster. In a pivotal race like Governor of Florida in 2022, there is an opportunity to convince liberal activists around the country to get involved, with donations or remote volunteering. But people from one state are not going to get involved in an election in another state if their own party is telling them they’re going to lose it.
Yet best I can tell, a whole lot of longtime Democratic Party political strategists are still of the mindset that you have to spend the entire race publicly insisting you’re losing if you want any chance to win. They’re afraid their constituents will get “complacent” – a word I hear over and over again from liberals who are trying to shush me whenever I dare to accurately spell out that any given race is highly winnable.
But complacency isn’t the problem. Most liberal activists don’t have infinite time and money. When they donate their money or time to a political campaign, it’s both because they believe in the candidate and cause, and because they think they can win. Keep telling them they’re going to lose, and they’re not going to keep grinding it out – especially in this era where campaigns last way too long and take way too much donation money. Saying “we’re gonna lose” to your own constituents doesn’t motivate them to try harder. It motivates them to give up and quit. And I’m not sure how many Democratic Party strategists actually understand that.
I’ve also come to suspect that Democratic strategists in Florida are unaware of just how thoroughly despised Ron DeSantis is around the nation. Now that Trump is on the backburner, a lot of Democrats and liberals around the country see DeSantis as public enemy number one. There are fifty states full of people willing to give their time and money to defeating DeSantis in Florida in 2022, so that he’s out to pasture by 2024. All that we have to do is to make sure everyone in all fifty states knows that DeSantis is in fact highly beatable.
There are limits to this, of course. You should never go around insisting that your side is definitely going to win; that could indeed make people complacent. And you should never intentionally overstate your odds of winning. For instance, there are plenty of House races in super-red districts around the country where the Democrat has no chance of winning at all, and it’s important that we don’t mislead people into wasting time and resources there.
We have to put our resources into realistically winnable races. Governor of Florida in 2022 is absolutely one of them. If the Republicans were running someone with no national profile, they’d probably have strong odds of winning, because in such case Democrats around the nation wouldn’t bother to get involved, because they wouldn’t much care whether some Republican they’ve never heard of wins reelection or not. But because it’s DeSantis, a national pariah who is despised by millions and millions of people around the country, the Democrats have strong odds of winning the Florida Governor race. All we have to do is actually let the nation know that it’s winnable, so they know to get involved.
We won’t get any help from the national media on this, which has already all but preemptively declared DeSantis the winner in 2022 because it helps feed their current ratings-driven narrative about DeSantis being a contender for 2024. And it’s not clear if we’re going to get help from the Florida Democratic Party, which still seems to think that yelling “we’re gonna lose” is the way to get people interested in helping them to win. But we’re going to make a national push anyway.
2020 taught us that one of the big keys to winning is to acknowledge that a highly winnable race is in fact a highly winnable race. The media kept insisting that Trump had some kind of secret evil genius plan, and kept implying that he was going to magically remain in office forever no matter what. But we pushed back against that nonsense, and accurately explained to liberal activists specifically why Trump was so beatable, and sure enough we kicked his ass. We’re not going to defeat DeSantis by millions of votes. But it’s more likely than not that we’ll beat him. All we have to do is tune out the “we’re gonna lose” crowd and then go from there.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report