CJR Staff
July 23, 2023

Florida's Political Shift: From Swing State to Republican Stronghold

Running for the Republican presidential nomination, Governor Ron DeSantis frequently alludes to his decisive recent re-election and his role in shifting Florida, once a heated battleground, to a solidly Republican state.

"Our triumph went beyond a significant win; it marked the transformation of Florida from a swing state to a Republican stronghold," DeSantis claimed during his campaign.

The once intensely contested swing state, responsible for George W. Bush's narrow 2000 presidential victory, has turned decidedly red under DeSantis' governance. Last November, DeSantis secured a second term with a resounding 19-point victory, with GOP Senator Marco Rubio also winning comfortably.

Purple to Red

Insiders suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting an influx of conservative voters, catalyzed the state's recent conservative shift. These new voters were attracted to DeSantis's strong stand against pandemic-related restrictions, keeping the state largely unrestricted.

Political scientist Rick Foglesong credits Republicans' "legacy advantage" from their extended winning streak as another key factor in the party's success in Florida, particularly among the Hispanic community.

Recently, registered Republican voters surpassed Democrats for the first time in Florida's history, leading DeSantis to declare, "Freedom is here to stay."

Whether DeSantis' assessment of the Democratic Party in Florida as a "lifeless organism" will remain true is uncertain.

The Democrats' recent win in Jacksonville's mayoral race provides a spark of hope for their resurgence in Florida.

However, some, like University of Florida professor Michael MacDonald, consider the events of 2022 an anomaly rather than a long-term trend, predicting a return to Florida's historically mixed political climate.

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