A string of electoral losses, an internal schism over the leadership of the state party and a series of self-inflicted public relations debacles, such as applying for pandemic relief funds, have demoralized local operatives, staff and rainmakers. But ousting the Republican governor is one of the few unifying forces for Democrats — a mantra that has fueled an ever-expanding field of those angling to take on DeSantis in 2022.
“Democrats want nothing more than to beat DeSantis next year, and regardless of how many people run, primary voters will ultimately rally around who is perceived to be the strongest in the general,” said Ben Pollara, a Miami-based Democratic consultant who has advised Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. Pollara isn’t aligned with any potential gubernatorial candidate but has worked on successful statewide ballot initiatives for raising the minimum wage and medical marijuana and is warming up a project to sink Sen. Marco Rubio’s reelection.
DeSantis has taken repeated victory laps throughout a global pandemic, embraced the Republican Party’s right flank and enjoyed his status as one of Donald Trump’s favorite governors — and the governor of the former president’s adopted home state. Democrats hope those strengths that keep DeSantis humming with the GOP base prove to be weak points in his political armor even as Florida Democrats keep falling short at the ballot box and haven’t won a gubernatorial race since 1994.