As Republican operatives awoke on Wednesday morning, two stark realities came into focus. First, of course, was the gut-punch realization that their “red wave” had not materialized: Fetterman beat Oz; Kelly leads Masters; Georgia is headed to a runoff. Low-quality and election-denying candidates (Tudor Dixon, Doug Mastriano, John Gibbs) had clearly cost them winnable seats, and control of Congress may be unknown for weeks. Murdochworld quickly blamed Donald Trump for his “toxic” endorsements; meanwhile, MAGAworld called for the swampy heads of “The Macs,” Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell. But there was also another narrative that began to coalesce upon which all could agree: Florida, the new spiritual center of the Republican Party, looked like the happiest place on earth.
Governor Ron DeSantis, after all, not only won re-election, but did so by nearly twenty points, or about 1.5 million votes—an air-raid siren improvement over his 2018 margin of barely 30,000 votes. Moreover, amid an electoral map dotted with unexpected flashes of blue, Florida remained the only red island. Marco Rubio handily dispatched Democrat Val Demings, the Republicans flipped several Democratic House seats, won a supermajority in the Florida Senate, and Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach (both with sizable Latino populations) went pure red for the first time in decades. But no one could match DeSantis’s beefy margin, fueling envy and ecstasy among conservatives in my text threads and Twitter feed. “Make America Florida” trended all night.
The obvious subtext for all this exhilaration, of course, is the expectation that DeSantis will challenge Trump for the White House in 2024. During his victory speech on Tuesday, the crowd at his election party rang with chants of “Two more years!”—a clear sign that his most diehard supporters want to see DeSantis go onto bigger and better things. The next morning, the Murdoch-owned New York Post ran a cover photo of the victorious Ron, his wife Casey, and their photogenic children above the headline “DeFUTURE.” The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, another Murdoch outlet, declared Trump “the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser.”