The only real question about the re-election of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on November 8 is just what his margin of victory will be. The stronger DeSantis’s showing against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, the stronger his position to challenge a fellow Floridian for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
DeSantis seems to be on an unending political honeymoon, gaining ever greater national attention while triggering the libs and winning adulation from the fringe and mainstream precincts of the Right alike. Though his opponents despise him for seeming to wake up each day determined to be the biggest jerk possible, DeSantis remains broadly popular in Florida for keeping the economy going and schools largely open during the pandemic. His provocations annoy but they don’t cost him support, even among moderate Sunshine State voters.
Among his more egregious stunts was the late-summer transport of Venezuelan migrants from South Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. The move—at once cruel, cynical, and calculated—had nothing to do with Florida and everything to do with showing that he can exceed Trump-level nastiness in immigration rhetoric and policy. But DeSantis used funds appropriated by a budget Tallahassee Democrats voted for. And if his action is found to violate criminal law, he has sufficient degrees of separation to make underlings take the fall.
Florida Democrats lack anyone with the political talent (or shamelessness or gutter instincts) to push back forcefully against DeSantis, much less knock him down. The task has fallen occasionally to California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and occasionally to the Biden White House. But the most consequential, if less noticed, barbs come not from Sacramento or Washington but from Palm Beach. Donald Trump’s inner circle complains to the national media about DeSantis, while the former president himself considers the governor insufficiently grateful for Trump’s outsized role in elevating him from an underdog candidate in 2018 to a player on the national stage.