The 2018 midterm elections held a few surprises all round, and handed the Democrats control of the House – a blow for President Trump’s legislative program. On the other hand, there were some gems of good news for the president in there, too. In particular, surprising results in Florida could give Trump a useful head start as he starts the fight for re-election.
Florida was a state the Democrats had high hopes for in 2018, but when the votes were counted it turned out they’d gotten it completely wrong. Instead, the Florida results were a big win for the Republicans – and look like handing Trump a large and valuable block of electoral college votes in 2020.
- Florida is usually seen as a swing state; its state government is split between the parties, and at a general election the voters can break either way. Now, though, the sunshine state has leaned more solidly towards Trump than its fellow swingers.
- Some of the seats up for grabs were very close votes – close enough that, for the first time in recent decades, the gubernatorial and Senate contests went down to a recount.
- Before the election, the Democrats had pinned many of their hopes on their candidate for governor, the young African-American Andrew Gillum. With a high turnout expected among young and ethnic minority voters, the Dems were confident their choice of candidate would win the day.
- There’s no doubt Gillum played a big role in an unexpectedly high turnout among Black and other minority voters; for the first time the percentage of votes cast by African-Americans was roughly equal to their share of registered voters, a significant event in a community that’s usually less engaged in politics.
- However, the Democrats’ focus on identity politics might have energized the Black vote, but it also seems to have spurred many whites to head for the voting booth – and they disproportionately voted Republican. That was enough to win Ron DeSantis the governor’s seat and put Rick Scott in the United States Senate.
- Now, as the Democrats look towards the 2020 election, they’re facing the same question that’s increasingly coming up across the nation. Should they focus on identity politics to keep their young, more left-wing activists happy, or return to policies more acceptable to their traditional, but increasingly restless, core voters among the white working class?
- Right now, despite the so-called “Gillum effect”, it seems the gamble failed in Florida. Despite having a two percent lead in registered voters in the state, the Democrats trailed 1.5 percent behind in voters who actually turned out. That’s not a huge gap to make up, but instead of being a triumph for the new-look Democratic Party Florida is now, in the words of one Dem analyst, “Trump’s state to lose.”