Florida election: Trump helps deliver a red wave of Republican victories

Zac Anderson
 
| Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Led by President Trump’s dominant performance at the top of the ticket, Republicans charged to victory up and down the ballot Tuesday in Florida, leaving Democrats reeling and overwhelmed by the red wave.

Not only did Trump nearly triple his 2016 margin of victory in Florida, but Republicans flipped two congressional seats held by Democrats and maintained total control of state government by winning a series of competitive state House and Senate races.

Trump’s victory was propelled by a show of strength in Miami-Dade County, where the president did much better than 2016. Trump’s Miami magic carried over to two congressional seats that include portions of the county.

Democratic congresswomen Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala both lost their reelection bids, reversing gains the party had made in Florida during the 2018 midterm elections.

Republicans also were able to hold onto an open congressional seat covering portions of Hillsborough and Polk counties that was targeted by Democrats.

Further down the ballot, the GOP won the two most competitive legislative races, a pair of state Senate contests that could have put Democrats on the precipice of winning control of that chamber.

Instead, the GOP maintained – and may even expand on – their Senate majority. Democratic state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez was trailing by 21 votes Wednesday morning in a race that is going to a recount.

The overall electoral picture in Florida could hardly have been better for Republicans, while Florida Democrats are in the familiar position of wondering what went wrong.

Republicans argued that Democrats simply were outworked.

“We crushed the Democrats on the ground, in voter registration and by turning out our voters,” Florida GOP Chair Joe Gruters said in a Facebook post.

Democrats immediately began calling for changes in the state party.

“I’m saying it now. We need a whole new direction for” the Florida Democratic Party tweeted state Rep. Anna Eskamani, an outspoken progressive from the Orlando area. “We are losing too many incredible down ballot elected officials and candidates right now and it’s not ok. I know we have the potential to be better and do better.”

Among the few bright spots for Democrats was winning the race for mayor of Miami-Dade County and seeing a constitutional amendment approved that will raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and many in the GOP opposed the wage increase.

But those wins were overshadowed by the GOP’s success in winning the most competitive races, particularly the presidential contest.

Trump’s Margin of victory was particularly strong in a state where big contests have been decided by a percentage point or less recently. It was the Florida equivalent of a blowout, and it came thanks to a stellar showing in Miami-Dade, typically a Democratic stronghold.

Trump didn’t win Miami-Dade but he lost it by a much smaller margin than in 2016. Polls leading up to Election Day showed him doing better with Hispanics, particularly Cuban Americans, but his staggering vote totals there left Democrats in shock.

If Republicans can replicate that success in Miami-Dade, it could be a game changer for state politics that leaves Democrats out of power for the foreseeable future.

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