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Many Democrats are considering running for governor of Florida.  Can anyone defeat Ron DeSantis?

There are people around the political pool as Democrats dip their toes in the water, wondering if they should be running for Florida governor in 2022.

The search for the highest office in the state is tempting for Democratic politicians, but also intimidating. While Democrats say victory is within reach, many also agree that denying Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis a second term would be extremely difficult.

“Can we win in 2022? It’s going to be tough, ”said Gwen Graham, the former congressman from North Florida who finished closely second in the 2018 multi-nominee primary for governor. “Of course, it is possible.”

Graham said the November 2018 election “was a snap compared to what 2022 is going to be for Democrats. We have to be honest about it.

Graham is one of the brand names frequently mentioned as potential nominees, along with Val Demings, congresswoman from Central Florida; Charlie Crist, congressman from St. Petersburg and former governor; and Nikki Fried, the state commissioner for agriculture.

Fried sends out the strongest signals. On Monday evening, a strategist working on his behalf tweeted a teaser for an upcoming Fried video. On Tuesday, the one-minute video was scrapped, with plenty of DeSantis reviews. And on Thursday, the strategist released a compilation of snippets from the video-generated news coverage – and said he agreed with one TV speaker’s assessment that she “could be the best hope of the party next year ”.

Graham said in an interview that she is not rushing. “I will be following the race very closely,” she said. “I’m not someone who never means ‘never’. I’m excited about the candidates who are considering running, and I think there are some really good candidates out there, so let’s see how it goes.

Orlando State Representative Anna Eskamani, who would be 32 on election day, said she was “seriously considering” running. She is by far the most progressive of potential wannabes, and her candidacy would create the kind of internal conflict that has already troubled the party.

Others plan to run for governor or the US Senate next year. “It’s a lot of names. And that’s probably a good thing, “said Nan Rich, a Broward County commissioner, former Democratic leader of the Florida Senate and unsuccessful candidate for the 2014 gubernatorial nomination.” We will have the opportunity to get rid of it all and hopefully find the kind of person who wins in the end.

On August 23, 2022, the Democratic primaries are 18 months away and the general election on November 8, 2022 is over 20 months away – dates that make the question of who is, who is out and who has the best chance seem terribly early. .

It’s not.

At that time, four years ago, most of the leading Democratic candidates had been campaigning for months, even though they had not officially announced their intentions. The first official announcement, from Democrat Andrew Gillum, who won the party’s nomination for governor, took place on March 1, 2017.

Democrats’ efforts for 2022 have been delayed by the party’s drive to defeat former President Donald Trump and the pandemic forced cancellations of in-person political events.

“The 2020 election sucked all the oxygen not just from the hall, but from the entire planet,” said Broward Mayor Steve Geller, former Democratic leader of the Florida Senate and confidant of Crist. “People couldn’t even think of 2022 until the 2020 resolution.”

Rich, who announced his candidacy more than two years before the 2014 primary, said it’s not too late for the 2022 candidates. “It’s not as much when you come in, I think, as it is. ‘have the campaign and campaign strategies in place to start when you walk in. Fundraising has become more and more of a factor. “

One of the biggest uncertainties surrounding 2022 is the remaining influence of Trump, now living in Palm Beach after his defeat. DeSantis bonded with Trump years ago, and the former president’s backing in 2018 helped propel him to the governor’s mansion.

And the results of last year’s election, in which Trump won Florida, show he can motivate voters. But Trump hasn’t shown his ability to get his supporters to the polls when he’s not on the ballot. Without Trump topping the list next year, it might be more difficult for Republicans to replicate what they did in 2020 in Florida and elsewhere.

“Governor DeSantis is now irrevocably linked to Donald Trump. And if Donald Trump stays strong, it will certainly help Governor DeSantis get re-elected, ”Geller said.

Next year Steve Vancore, a Democratic consultant based in Tallahassee, said Trump could be an anchor for DeSantis. “To some extent, he’s going to support the weight of Donald Trump and the negativity that Trump brings without the elevation of Trump that is on the ballot and cannot inspire his base by being on the ballot,” said Vancore.

Democrats haven’t won the Florida governor’s election since 1994. There is no guarantee for next year, but multiple factors give the Republican governor an advantage:

Time. DeSantis has the advantage of tenure. He also had a head start on fundraising. Democrats, on the other hand, are starting from scratch. (A wealthy candidate is somewhat immune. In 2018, billionaire Jeff Greene arrived late in the governor’s primary and lost despite millions of his own money. In 2010, multimillionaire Rick Scott was a late entry into the Republican primary and won after spending millions of his own money.)

Crisis of the Democratic Party. The state’s Democratic organization is in debt, and the new leadership that arrived after the 2020 election sacked many staff. Democrats have little infrastructure for a ground-based gaming operation that reaches voters and gets people registered, motivated and turned out to vote, Rich said, which Florida Republicans excelled in last year when the Democrats have pulled out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rich cited Georgia, where the 10-year effort led by Stacey Abrams helped secure Democratic victories in two US Senate polls in January. Vancore said there was “a lot of basic repair work within the party infrastructure that needs to be done before they can start moving forward effectively.”

Messaging. In 2020, Republicans were able to convince many wealthy voters in South Florida that Democrats were socialists and wanted to dismantle the police. Rich said neither is true, but the party has not offered an effective response. As a result, she said, the Democratic candidates were hurt. “

Florida Democrats remain divided over which type of candidate has the best chance of winning.

One theory: appoint someone from the liberal-progressive wing in an attempt to motivate young liberal voters who are not excited about the usual Democratic tariff. “I am absolutely concerned if someone like me is not in the running, the influence of business within the Democratic Party will continue to persist, and there will not be a strong progressive perspective embedded in the struggles of the people. ordinary, ”Eskamani said.

The other theory: appoint a centrist in the hope of attracting the widest range of voters by appealing to the moderates. “We have to replicate a bit of what Biden did by being a moderate and ordinary person,” she said. “Objective # 1 is to select a candidate who can win the general election.”

They tried both approaches, and both produced what political scientist Aubrey Jewett of the University of Central Florida called “woefully close” defeats. Centrist Crist came 1 percentage point behind Republican Gov. Rick Scott in 2014. Progressive Gillum came 0.4 point behind Republican DeSantis in 2018.

“The Democrats in this state have not settled that argument,” Jewett said.

In 2018, progressive Liberal Gillum won the primary with 34.4% of the vote, just 3.1 percentage points ahead of centrist Graham – in a race in which two other more centrist candidates secured an additional 30.4% of the vote .

As to whether a brutal primary would weaken the eventual candidate, Eskamani said “dirty laundry needs to be released and candidates need to be challenged before the general. It will make a better candidate. “

The impending redistribution of the boundaries of congressional districts and state legislative districts for the 2022 election is playing a role, although the boundaries will not be drawn until next year. Redistribution is used to adjust for population changes revealed by the 2020 census.

And Republicans who control the state government can use the redistribution to make it more difficult for Democrats in Congress, the State Senate, and the State House to run for office. This could encourage some to run for senior positions if they think the redistribution could make their chances of re-election riskier.

Representative Stephanie Murphy of Central Florida is keeping her options open. The Florida Politics website reported that this week, people who visited its website were automatically redirected to a website for “She wouldn’t be the first politician to be inspired to look for another office because of the redistribution,” Jewett said.

It’s hard to overstate the intensity of their feelings toward DeSantis, which has shaped a combative conservative governance style in the Trump mold. The policies and approach that made him a favorite of many in Trump’s universe make him anathema to Democrats who would like to deny him a second term.

One more incentive for Democrats: defeating the governor would derail a 2024 DeSantis presidential candidacy.

“Ron DeSantis is trying to be the Trumpsters’ trumpeter,” said Graham, who frequently posts reviews on Twitter using the hashtag #TheRonFile. “Absolutely the Trumpsters love him, but my argument about him since long before it was the cool thing to do to criticize Ron DeSantis is that he was inept and unfit to be a governor.

Vancore, who said voters would end up judging DeSantis largely on his performance in the event of a pandemic, said he had vulnerabilities. But, he added, DeSantis’ approval rating is over 50% in the polls and he has campaign money.

“It’s going to be hard to beat,” Geller said.

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