Sounding the retreat: Democrat campaign committee abandons Florida to DeSantis

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Have Democrats given up on Florida entirely? Instead of lending a hand to Democrats’ attempts to unseat Ron DeSantis next year in Florida’s gubernatorial election, Politico reports that the Democratic Governors Association will “deprioritize” the Sunshine State and focus entirely on defense instead.

Score one for DeSantis — and maybe Glenn Youngkin and Jack Ciattarelli, too:

The Democratic Governors Association has no plans to give significant financial help to Florida Democrats as they seek to unseat Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, a major setback that will make it harder for challengers to take on the popular Republican.

The DGA, which spent more than $15 million in Florida over the past two gubernatorial election cycles, is starting to deprioritize the state and is expected to have a much smaller footprint during the midterms, said two Florida Democratic consultants who have been in contact with the DGA.

It’s a move driven, in part, by the DGA’s need to use its limited resources to protect incumbent governors elsewhere, as well as the growing sense that Democrats can’t win statewide elections in Florida, these people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to characterize the private discussions.

Is it a coincidence that this comes after Tuesday’s elections? One Democratic incumbent — Phil Murphy in New Jersey — nearly got pushed out of office unexpectedly despite not being terribly unpopular at the moment. Democrats lost Virginia at the same time to Republicans despite turning the state reliably blue over the last decade or so. While some of the issues and currents were different in the two contests — taxes were a big issue in New Jersey while Terry McAuliffe turned into a terrible candidate — both had one identical feature: Joe Biden’s job approval ratings collapse.

After watching the loss and near-loss of what should have been two easy retentions (and the New Jersey race isn’t quite over yet), small wonder the DGA wants to focus on defense. They can’t afford to lose any more ground, and given the failure of polling to alert them in New Jersey, they can’t afford to take any state gubernatorial race for granted, except possibly California. If Biden’s ratings continue to fall, maybe even the Golden State will need shoring up.

This, however, is more than a tactical shift to defense. Even if Democrats can’t beat DeSantis next year, the DGA’s money goes a long way to providing structure for Democrats in the 2024 presidential cycle. Florida has 29 Electoral College votes that can make or break the presidential election. Republicans can’t win an Electoral College vote without Florida any more, and a Democrat win there would essentially end any chances of a White House flip. Forcing Republicans to spend money in Florida at least reduces some of their ability to campaign elsewhere too, in states that are even more competitive.

By abandoning Florida now, the DGA and Democratic Party establishment is all but conceding the race to DeSantis. And in doing that, they’re making DeSantis all the more formidable in a potential presidential general election. This is a very, very big concession by the DGA and Democrats, especially if DeSantis wins the GOP nomination in 2024 — which this makes a little bit more likely, too.