The GOP May Have a Florida Problem

There has been quite a deluge of opinions circulating out there recently by various political strategists about how the impact of the pandemic could “upend” the electoral map in the 2020 presidential elections and further imperil the Republican Party’s effort to stay in the White House and even maintain control of the Senate.

I’m usually fairly skeptical of these sorts of forecasts, as they tend to be fairly unconvincing given just how hardened and polarized most American voters are. Just look at how unshakeable the president’s approval rating is pretty much no matter what he says, does, or is seen to have failed to do. His floor among his base is rock solid, and so far 40,000 Americans killed by the virus have failed to show cracks.

That said, I found this piece today in Politico to contain some interesting insights with regard to the performance of key Republicans in the mother of all swing states, Florida:

The nation’s largest swing state — which Trump carried narrowly in 2016 — has become Democrats’ Exhibit A in their case for the GOP’s mishandling of the pandemic. Spring breakers were allowed to crowd the state’s beaches. The virus spread to the state’s nursing homes and to The Villages, a largely Republican retirement community. And as hundreds of thousands of Floridians applied for unemployment benefits, they were stymied by a system Republicans privately acknowledge was designed by the previous Republican administration to make it harder to get benefits — a measure to lower the state’s reported number of jobless claims.

As of last week, only about 5 percent of applicants had received benefit payments. And that was before the state felt the full effect of the devastation to its travel and tourism industries, as Walt Disney World furloughed tens of thousands of employees. (…)

“DeSantis might f—k Florida up for Trump … Everybody saw all the spring breakers on the beach. That’s an indelible image. Once people see that, they don’t forget it,” said Pete Giangreco, a Democratic strategist who has worked on nine presidential campaigns.

But the Politico piece is putting it lightly when talking about Gov. DeSantis’ approval ratings – nearly every other governor, both Democrat and Republican, has seen their public support improve in response to the pandemic. This really is a remarkable aberration.

And to be clear, Governor DeSantis should not get all the blame – the byzantine policies which are making it impossible for laid off workers to get benefits was specifically designed that way on purpose by Sen. Rick Scott.

Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat state legislator (with an obvious bone to pick), lays it bare: “Rick Scott is the most culpable human being when we look at who’s responsible for the failed system. But I don’t know of any Republican who resisted these efforts to make Florida the most Scrooge-like state in the nation.”

If unemployment continues to rise (looks like it will), and the state of Florida is unable to unlock sufficient levels of financial support, it looks increasingly likely that this monster of a swing state is up for grabs for the Democrat Party.

That said, Gov. DeSantis just barely was able to defeat Democrat candidate Andrew Gillum, whose status as a rising star for progressives was sharply concluded when he woke up in a hotel room with a male porn star who had overdosed on crystal meth.

So Florida is gonna Florida, but it just got a lot harder for to keep those 29 electoral college votes.