If ever there should be a state party that is dead in the water, it should be the Florida Republican Party which has just presided over a horrific and on-going pandemic catastrophe from a pro-COVID Republican governor and a pro-COVID Republican state legislature. DeSantis and his pet legislature invited COVID to settle in in Florida. And it has. Yesterday the state reported 5,838 more cases of COVID, bringing the state total to 858,012. Tomorrow, Florida will surpass on ominous mark: 40,000 cases per million inhabitants. Over 17,300 Floridians have died, needlessly. And yet, Republicans did quite well in Florida, winning the state's 29 electoral votes for Trump and holding onto all their state legislative seats. Now they have to get ready to defend DeSantis and Marco Rubio in 2022.
Conventional wisdom is that Rubio will have a big, fat target on his back in 2022 when he runs for reelection. But to think about that more seriously take into account that
• Florida Democrats have a defective party that can't win races • Florida Democrats have lost ground to Republicans among Hispanic voters • The Democratic bench is so weak and enfeebled that they don't have even one viable candidate waiting in the wings.
Obama won Florida both times he ran. But in 2016, Trump beat the Democratic Party establishment candidate there, 4,617,886 (48.60%) to 4,504,975 (47.41%). Although votes are still being counted, with 99% reported, Trump beat Biden 5,667,474 (51.2%) to 5,294, 767 (47.8%). Both party bases were highly motivated and turned out in force, exceeding their 2016 turn-outs significantly. Trump had 1,049,588 more voters this year than in 2016 and Biden had 789,792 more voters than Hillary did.
Rubio is already working on positioning himself. Alayna Treene, writing for Axios yesterday, reported that Rubio, who is also looking towards a 2024 presidential run, told her that Republicans need to rebrand their party as the champions of working-class voters and steer away from its traditional embrace of big business. He's attempting to navigate how to acknowledge Trump's successes while not allowing himself to be painted as a Trumpist. "The future of the party," he told her, "is based on a multiethnic, multiracial working-class coalition."
Rubio said Republicans have long believed in and supported the free market, "but the free market exists to serve our people. Our people don't exist to serve the free market."
He added that working class Americans are now largely against big businesses “that only care about how their shares are performing, even if it's based on moving production overseas for cheaper labor. "They're very suspicious, quite frankly, dismissive of elites at every level. And obviously that's a powerful sentiment." ..."We still have a very strong base in the party of donors and think tanks and intelligentsia from the right who are market fundamentalists, who accuse anyone who's not a market fundamentalist of being a socialist to some degree," Rubio said. "If the takeaway from all of them is now is the time to go back to sort of the traditional party of of unfettered free trade, I think we're gonna lose the [Trump] base as quickly as we got it... We can't just go back to being that," he added.
She also reported that when Andrew Yang was interviewed on CNN last week, he had a similar perspective, noting that when he introduced himself as a Democrat to working-class voters, they would flinch. "There is something deeply wrong when working-class Americans have that response to a major party that theoretically is supposed to be fighting for them. In their minds, the Democratic Party, unfortunately, has taken on this role of the coastal urban elites who are more concerned about policing various cultural issues than improving their way of life... This to me is a fundamental problem for the party."