For some Democrats, losing Miami-Dade County in South Florida was unthinkable.
The state’s most populous county, a Democratic stronghold and home to 1.5 million Hispanics, has been the scene of nearly every successful Democratic Party campaign in Florida over the past two decades.
But in Tuesday’s midterm elections, the GOP broke through the Democratic wall in Miami-Dade, raising questions about the state’s ability to compete in future races — including the 2024 presidential race — as Republicans hold their coalition. in a way that he can go beyond Florida.
With the final votes counted, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio defeated their Democratic opponents by nearly 20 points. In Miami-Dade in particular, his win could reach double digits.
DeSantis also won among college-educated and suburban voters, a Democratic force elsewhere.
“Our party, especially here in Florida, needs to backtrack to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Representative-elect Maxwell Alejandro Frost, 25, a Democrat of black and Hispanic descent. Frost won his race in central Florida on Tuesday but lamented Republican victories in other parts of the state.
In contrast, Republicans in Florida were happy.
“The Florida Democratic Party has completely collapsed,” Republican strategist Giancarlo Sopo said. “It was not just a wave or a tsunami. It was a red asteroid that struck them in Florida.”
Republicans’ success in Florida on Tuesday contrasts with disappointing results for Republicans elsewhere in the country. Although the counting of votes was not completed in several major bouts, the red wave predicted by the party leaders failed in most parts of the country. Some candidates chosen by former President Donald Trump suffered particularly major defeats.
Trump did not endorse DeSantis, who he sees as a potential challenger in the 2024 presidential election. A few days before the vote, Trump taunted DeSantis, called him “Ron DeSanctimonius” (Ron DeSanturron) and banned him from a political rally in Florida.
But for this week, DeSantis certainly had the upper hand in the rivalry.
Trump’s favorite newspaper, The New York Post, put DeSantis on its front page on Wednesday, titled: “Diffuture.”
“I think people don’t see the Trump brand well right now,” said David Urban, a former Trump adviser and Florida resident.
But beyond the Trump-DeSantis rivalry, Florida’s evolution from political swing state to Republican stronghold was surprising.
DeSantis won the governorship four years ago by 32,436 votes out of more than 8.2 million, a margin so narrow it needed a re-count. When the last votes were counted on Wednesday, his lead crossed 1.5 million votes.
The Republican Party in Florida has benefited from an influx of supporters who moved to the state during the Trump years. In the four years since DeSantis’s previous victory, Republicans have erased the lead in voter registration that Democrats had for decades. When registration for the 2018 election closed, Democrats had a 263,269-vote lead. At the end of September 2022, the Republican lead was 292,533.
At the same time, nearly three-quarters of Florida Republicans identify as supporters of the Make America Great Again (MAGA) movement, according to an Associated Press Vote Cast poll of more than 3,300 voters in the state. This ratio is significantly higher than the nearly two-thirds of Republicans who feel the same nationally.
A key element to those progress are Latino voters.
According to Associated Press VoteCast, more than half of Florida’s Latino voters supported Republicans DeSantis and Rubio. It marks a change from 2020, when Latino voters chose Biden over Trump.
The Latino vote in Florida is more complex than in other parts of the country because it includes Cuban Americans, Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics. Voters of Cuban descent, especially older ones, have remained loyal to the Republican Party and six in 10 voted for Trump in 2020. This year, three-quarters of Cuban voters voted overwhelmingly for DeSantis. ,
But DeSantis did relatively well in most of the various voting blocs.
Florida’s governor made a breakthrough even among black voters, which heavily favor Democrats: 18% of black voters voted Republican in Florida. DeSantis garnered the support of both men and women, as well as voters of various ages. Most college graduates and suburban voters voted for him. DeSantis and Crist shared the vote of moderate voters almost equally.
Puerto Rican voter Lily Delici, who had been identified as a moderate before Trump launched her candidacy in 2015, said she supports the electoral form, which she feels has better control over the economy at a time when the country is in unprecedented circumstances. is vulnerable to inflation. , He supported DeSantis.
“I don’t have to worship whoever is in charge,” Delici said. “If my dollars are going to go further and I don’t have to push my gas and my money to the limit, I’ll vote for that person.”
Indeed, at the moment it is unclear whether Republicans’ rise among Latino voters is due to a fundamental shift in Florida or a difficult political climate for Democrats. Republican victories in Florida were not repeated in other states such as Texas, where they had optimistic results.
Juan Martínez, an adviser to the conservative group Libre Initiative, said he continues to view Latino voters as a precarious community whose vote could go either way in future elections. He said Latino voters needed a year’s attention to win a political victory.
“One day they may vote Republican and the next election they will vote Democrat,” Martinez said. “Forget the drama in Washington, DC and The Division. They want real solutions.”
Nationally, Democrats have shown little interest in competing for the Latino vote in Florida. National campaign committees have over the past year overlooked the state, which is the costliest campaign to campaign for.
Florida Democratic strategist Jose Parra called on his party to “check your conscience.”
“They need to think about whether they will leave Florida forever,” he said. “It would be ridiculous to me that we are the largest state in the country with no defined political bias, and without Florida the passage to the White House would have been impossible for Republicans.”
“Instead of losing, they should make long-term investments,” Parra said.
People reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Hannah Fingerhut and Noah Dolby contributed to this report.