(The Center Square) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ sweeping win in Florida on Tuesday has propelled his stature in the Republican Party just as candidates backed by former President Donald Trump struggled on election day, setting a more favorable stage for DeSantis ahead of a potential 2024 presidential primary matchup.
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DeSantis won his gubernatorial race in 2018 by about 33,000 votes. This time around, with 99% of the total reporting, DeSantis leads his Democrat opponent by more than 1.5 million votes.
DeSantis’ win validated his brand of economically strong, anti-COVID restriction politics with an edge on culture war issues. He hammered home that message in his victory speech Tuesday night.
“We have embraced freedom,” DeSantis said. “We have maintained law and order. We have protected the rights of parents. We have respected our taxpayers, and we reject woke ideology … We will never ever surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die!”
Miami-Dade County supported Hillary Clinton by 29 points in 2016 but swung hard for DeSantis this year. DeSantis won that county by about 11 points.
Miami-Dade and other regions showed an impressive number of Hispanic voters side with DeSantis, a fact that would be crucial in a potential general election in 2024.
Meanwhile, Trump’s candidates did not fare as well. Candidates like Dr. Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker, celebrities backed by Trump, struggled Tuesday. Oz lost his race, and Walker is headed for a Dec. 6 runoff.
One outspoken Trump supporter, U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., is trailing as her race is near a dead tie and comes down to the wire.
“There’s no question this was a bad election for Donald Trump,” said Asher Hildebrand, former Capitol Hill Chief of Staff and current associate professor of the practice at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. “With the possible exception of Kari Lake in Arizona and Herschel Walker in Georgia, every governor and Senate candidate he endorsed in five main battleground states appears to have lost.
“…That combined with DeSantis’ strong showing in the Florida governor’s race increases pressure among Republican elites to find another standard bearer in 2024,” he added.
Others echoed that message.
“An election where Oz and Walker narrowly lose and where DeSantis romps by 20 points is the worst possible night for Trump and the best possible night for DeSantis,” Patrick Ruffini, a pollster for Echelon Insights, wrote on Twitter.
Likely aware of this narrative, Trump posted on TruthSocial Wednesday afternoon attacking DeSantis, whom he recently nicknamed “DeSanctimonious.”
During his 2016 primary campaign, Trump belittled his GOP rivals with crude nicknames.
“Now that the Election in Florida is over, and everything went quite well, shouldn’t it be said that in 2020, I got 1.1 Million more votes in Florida than Ron D got this year, 5.7 Million to 4.6 Million? Just asking?”
The stocks for TruthSocial’s merger partner, Digital World Acquisition Corp, dipped roughly 20% after Trump’s candidates did not fare well.
“While in certain ways yesterday’s election was somewhat disappointing, from my personal standpoint it was a very big victory – 219 WINS and 16 Losses in the General – Who has ever done better than that?” Trump wrote on the platform Wednesday.
Other analysts pointed out that regardless of whether Trump is the nominee in 2024, his style of politics isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“There may be an end of Trump but there won’t be an end of Trumpism,” said Adriane Lentz-Smith, associate professor and associate chair in Duke’s Department of History.