The anticipated red wave did not materialize as many expected on Tuesday night, but there are glimmers of hope and useful takeaways amid the wreckage. Here are three:
First, the future is Florida and freedom. It may not have hit coast-to-coast, but the Sunshine State certainly was bathed in a deep shade of crimson. Not only did he relegate gadfly Charlie Crist to the dustbin of irrelevance, but Gov. Ron DeSantis’ smashing victory validated his own first consequential term in office. (RELATED: With Republicans Poised To Take Back The House, A Key Opportunity To Reverse Dems’ Insanity Emerges)
During his first four years, DeSantis framed Florida as a bastion of liberty, with more to offer than warm weather and a business-friendly climate. In his words, DeSantis positioned his state as the, “escape hatch for those chafing under authoritarian, arbitrary and seemingly never-ending mandates and restrictions.”
People voted with their feet — four of the country’s top 10 fastest growing metro areas were in Florida — and at the ballot box. With a resounding re-election under his belt, including carrying nearly two-thirds of the vote in majority Hispanic precincts, DeSantis is poised to parlay his record of results into a run for higher office — which comes at an opportune time for a party about to commence the process of choosing its next leader.
Long gone are the days of Florida as the quintessential battleground state. It is now firmly in the Republican camp.
Second, the candidates who relied on their strong records succeeded. DeSantis, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp were all big winners Tuesday night, but that’s not all they share.
All three framed their candidacies separate and apart from former President Donald Trump, earning his ire along the way. Kemp’s victory is especially noteworthy. Four years after eking out a 55,000-vote victory over Stacey Abrams, Kemp rolled up a 300,000-vote advantage in a 2022 re-match. He also handily dispatched a primary challenge from former Sen. David Perdue, who was coaxed into the race by Trump as retribution for certifying the 2020 election results.
Finally, Democrats may have escaped a shellacking, but they did so despite — not because of — their current leader. The incredibly shrinking presidency of Joe Biden continues. For all the speculation about future GOP presidential candidates, the absence of the current occupant of the White House was conspicuous down the home stretch.
Sure, Biden popped up in deep blue parts of America, but he was kept far away from the key battlegrounds.
In fact, Biden closed the campaign season with a rally in Maryland, a state he carried by more than 30 points in 2020. One day earlier on the trail in New York, which he won by a mere 23 points, the commander-in-chief made headlines for the wrong reason after tussling with environmental protestors and pledging “no more drilling.” It was not the closing message a party who presided over record energy prices wanted to hear hours before polls opened.
As Biden continues to keep the door open on seeking another term, questions remain about his ability to campaign outside the confines of his basement. There’s a reason the White House declined to schedule a post-midterm press conference until the results rolled in.
As the dust settles on a midterm season that defied pollsters and expectations, the attention shifts in earnest to the presidential primary. Republicans would be wise to build on their successes and learn from their mistakes so the day after the next election starts better than this one.
Colin Reed is a Republican strategist, former campaign manager for Senator Scott Brown and co-founder of South & Hill Strategies.
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