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With midterms wrapping up, many now look to 2024

Ron DeSantis
Rebecca Blackwell
Supporters cheer after the race is called for incumbent Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis during an election night party, in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

Mid-term 2022: the votes are in, some victory and concession speeches have been delivered, and when the counts are done, what’s next?

Reality fell short of GOP dreams for the midterm and some Donald Trump-backed candidates, and voters stood up in defense of abortion rights. That big, red, Republican tsunami didn’t pan out.

“No, it did not and once again, calls into question some of the polling has been done,” said retired political scientist Susan MacManus. “And pollsters themselves were biting their nails worrying about it. And sure enough, it came to fruition. It was even wrong in Florida, but in the right direction.”

There were more people casting ballots on Tuesday than in other midterms, but MacManus says there could actually be a slight dip in turnout regarding percentage of those who voted.

“One of the big, big problems that Florida Democrats had was a tepid turnout among some of their key constituency bases,” said MacManus. “After Democrats have announced such a big, expensive registration campaign, it just didn't come to fruition.”

For the Republicans, the question is whether Donald Trump’s influence over that party is waning, given that a number of his hand-picked candidates lost their elections on Tuesday.

“There are some Republicans who will say, ‘by all means;’ but other Republicans will say, ‘we can't win without him,’” she said. “We need a unified party. So you're going to have a realism within the Republican Party about the way forward.”

In the Florida legislature, Republicans picked up four Senate seats, to hold a 28-12 “supermajority” in that chamber. For procedural reasons, that gives the GOP near-total power to pass its priorities. Republicans also cleaned up Tuesday in state House races, and will hold 85 of the 120 seats come next session.

Ron DeSantis
Rebecca Blackwell
A person holds up a sign before incumbent Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to supporters during an election night party, in Tampa, Fla., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.

It was status quo in the western Panhandle, with all Republican incumbents keeping their legislative seats. Helping lead that celebration is John Roberts, who chairs Escambia County’s GOP.

“We actually had 63% of our registered Republicans vote in the election, and I think 47% of registered Democrats voted,” Roberts said. “So it's just a matter of our people turned out much larger numbers. I think we would have won most of these races anyway, but we won by much larger margins than even we might have anticipated.”

The real action, says Roberts, will commence when the Florida Legislature convenes next March 7.

“The legislature will continue the DeSantis agenda and will still have a lot of support, even more support this next session than he had previously,” said Roberts. “So we're looking at a lot of things getting accomplished.”

With DeSantis’s win, the question is now: will he serve his full term? For many Republicans, DeSantis is the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. Roberts says, stay tuned.

“Well, we'd love to have him here for four years, but we're just taking things a day at a time on that,” he said. “It's just too hard to predict. So we think he's an outstanding job as governor and we want that to continue. But politics, you can't always predict these things. So we're taking it as it comes.”

For Democrats, the post-mortems are getting underway, including in Escambia County where Lilly Eubanks is party chair.

“We will do some analysis, of course, and look over the situation. And I think the thing that we need to most do is getting those volunteers to be permanent members of the Democratic Party and participate more heavily,” she said.

Two other areas that will get attention, says Eubanks, are candidate recruitment and fundraising — and being shortchanged in the latter by state Democratic officials.

“Even though our area of the Panhandle has been improving numbers, there is not money spent on advertising,” Eubanks said. “There is not money spent on letting the people know that there is hope. I would love to see more help from the Florida Democratic Party.”

As the counting wraps up for the 2022 midterm, Eubanks says they’re beginning their work for the 2024 cycle.

“We have a meeting next Tuesday night that we're going to be talking about it,” said Eubanks. “And we will celebrate our volunteers at a party in December and try to get them more involved in the party. And then definitely after the first of the year, we'll start trying to recruit more members and start trying to increase voter a registration.”

The game plan for the state Republicans for 2024 appears similar to that of the state Democratic Party: communications, volunteer recruitment, campaigning training, and beefing up the local organization.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.