Democrats directed a car attack against Ron DeSantis on Wednesday in Miami, a Democratic city where the Republican president was nearly red-handed last fall.
A billboard truck hired by the Democratic National Committee surrounded the Four Seasons Hotel with critical accessories of DeSantis as donors gathered inside to celebrate the president’s impromptu announcement.
The citywide event for the 2022 gubernatorial election is part of DeSantis’ bragging rights at the heart of his pitch as a Republican who can run where Donald Trump loses. The two will face off against other contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in Florida on March 19.
DeSantis lost in Miami by a narrow margin to Democrat Charlie Crist in November two years after Joe Biden beat Trump in the city by 19 points, according to a McClatchy analysis of election data.
“Donald Trump excites conservatives. The problem is that he also excites Democrats,” said Giancarlo Sopo, a communications consultant who grew up in Miami and is backing DeSantis in the GOP primary. “DeSantis excites the conservative base, but independents and Democrats are open to him.”
The 2022 Miami-Dade Democratic election was a landslide, which saw a Republican presidential candidate win the county for the first time in 20 years. Miami’s statistics were glowing as Democratic nominee Charlie Crist cruised to victory, but by a margin that provided big gains in the city of DeSantis, where Democrats and Republican voters were inseparable.
The 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gill, carried Miami by 20 points, matching Biden’s pulling margin. When DeSantis ran for re-election, Christ only managed to beat DeSantis by less than two points in Miami: he won the city of 440,000 by 50% to 49%.
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Although Miami is led by Francisco Suarez, a Republican mayor who could also run for president in 2024, Democrats enjoy a healthy registration advantage. Of the 209,000 registered voters in Miami, 40% are Democrats, 34% have no party affiliation and 25% are Republicans, according to the Miami-Dade Department of Elections.
Christian Ulvert, a campaign consultant who works for Democrats in Miami-Dade, including Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, said DeSantis’ demonstration in Miami only highlights the struggles he will face in the presidential election.
While Crist failed to engage his party’s base, Ulvert said the 2024 Republican nominee will have to deal with a strong turnout from Democrats, which saw DeSanti’s race narrow margin in a non-general election year. In Miami-Dade, voter turnout for the gubernatorial race was 48%, but Ulvert said the number was at 28% among black Democrats and 31% among Hispanic Democrats.
“When you look at the numbers for the entire county, you know he didn’t win because he did something great. Because the Democratic turnout was too low,” Ulvert said. “It didn’t have great cross-sectional appeal.”
Ben Wieder, an investigative reporter and reporter for the McClatchy Washington Bureau, contributed to this article.