DeSantis in Wonderland


Wednesday, November 9, 2022

After months of grueling debates, frivolous spending, and insufferable hours of campaign ads, the 2022 midterm election has finally happened. While we wait for some states to finish counting votes (and for Georgia to run it back in December), the results are finalized in numerous East Coast states, including my state of Florida.

Starting at the top of the ticket; incumbent governor Ron DeSantis beat former governor Charlie Crist by an unimaginable 19.4 percent. He outran Crist by 1.5 million votes. 1.5 million! To put that in perspective, DeSantis won in 2018 by 1.5 percent and Trump won Florida in 2020 by 3.4 percent. Florida is not South Dakota. It is not Mississippi. A good election win in a (now former) swing state such as Florida is 4-5 percent. A great win is 8 percent. What DeSantis and the Florida GOP did last night is paradigm-shifting. Without letting my optimism run amok, I would say this kind of win puts the GOP firmly in the driver’s seat in Florida for a decade.

His dominant performance had down-ballot results, too. Marco Rubio won his re-election bid for the Senate by 16 percent. Republicans retained supermajorities in both state houses, and out of 28 House seats the GOP won 20 of them, picking up four seats that will likely be the deciding factor for the upcoming House majority. On a night where the GOP massively underperformed expectations, the Florida GOP with DeSantis at the helm is living in a wonderland, with implications beyond 2022.

It is no secret to those of us who closely follow GOP politics that DeSantis has been preparing for a run at the Presidency in 2024. To get there, he will seemingly have to defeat Trump in the primary, a daunting task up until tonight. Trump candidates across the country lost, while normal Republicans celebrated respectable victories (Kemp in Georgia, Dewine in Ohio), or massively overperformed expectations (Zeldin in New York). The story of this GOP underperformance is a clear one; the more involved Trump was in a given election, the worse the GOP result was.

I will admit; DeSantis is not my personal cup of tea. His bombastic behavior is grating at times, and some of his more populist-leaning policy choices are not my favorites. However, he is not, as some would paint him, a semi-fascist. His GOP would have room for various styles of conservatism, including my own. 

More importantly, he is a proven winner. His record of governance is solid, and the voters of Florida rewarded him handily on a night where the GOP floundered overall. If he wants to run—and he does want to run—the moment is his. He has the momentum. Every GOP voter scratching their head wondering what went wrong will be comparing the men in Tallahassee and Mar-a-Lago to figure out where we go from here. The choice couldn’t be starker.  

The message is clear; competency wins, and Trumpism loses. DeSantis showed that with a dominant performance here in Florida. I expect to see more going forward.

Scott Howard is a junior political science major at the University of Florida. His other work can be found on Substack, where he writes the newsletter The Conservative Muse.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Scott Howard

Scott Howard is a junior political science major at the University of Florida. His other work can be found on Substack, where he writes the newsletter The Conservative Muse.

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