In 2018, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican US Sen. Rick Scott were elected in Florida with margins so narrow that both races went to recounts. But Florida's days as a battleground state could be numbered, the Hill reports. The state's population is growing rapidly, and many of the newcomers, including those from blue states, are Republicans. Nelson Diaz, former chair of the Miami-Dade County GOP, credits DeSantis' opposition to COVID restrictions and says population shifts during the pandemic "made red states redder and blue states bluer."
Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, tells the Hill that Republicans are attracting a larger share of the state's Hispanic population—and retirees are becoming more conservative. "Basically what’s happened is the older senior generation—say the New Deal generation—who were pretty loyal Democrats, they're dying off and they're being replaced by the baby boomer retirees and many of them are moving to Florida and they're very Republican," Jewett says. Last year, the number of registered Republicans overtook the number of registered Democrats, eliminating the Democrats' 700,000-voter advantage in less than a decade.
In 2020, Donald Trump, who is now a full-time Florida resident, won the state by 3.5 percentage points, tripling his margin from 2016. Barack Obama won the state in 2008 and 2012. Pollster Fernando Amandi, who assisted both victories, says that the numbers are "tremendous reason for concern" and that Democrats will have to make "unrelenting" efforts to turn things around. CNN notes that with approval ratings in the high 50s despite—or perhaps because of—numerous contentious policies, DeSantis is poised to easily win reelection in November, strengthening his case for a possible White House bid in 2024. (Read more Florida stories.)