The Volusia County Republican Party held a watch party at a bar on LPGA boulevard in Daytona Beach on Tuesday night. I attended it and noticed immediately the Trump-centric character of the evening. “Let’s start with a prayer,” said a GOP official. “We entered politics to restore sanity to our republic,” said the man, before invoking God’s blessings. He was dressed casually, donning shorts and a pair of socks inscribed with Trump’s name on them. Many if not most of the attendees at the watch party were festooned with Trumpian pins, hats, shirts, and the like.
The national media portrayed Trump as a weight on Republicans. In fact, he was their source of energy. Had the Florida GOP been ambivalent about Trump and kept him out of the state, Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott would have lost. Journalists mocked DeSantis for “tying himself to Trump,” but they now fall silent as it becomes clear that that was perhaps his only winning strategy.
The press propagandized relentlessly for Gillum, who was flush with money from George Soros and Tom Steyer, while kneecapping the scrappier DeSantis over minor lapses, and Gillum still couldn’t win. Notice also the media’s silence about Obama. Yet again the darling of journalists shows himself to be a crappy campaigner for others. In his narcissistic shade nothing grows.
The media’s excited talk of a “blue wave” in Florida never struck me as very convincing as I walked around various cities in Florida. The media’s giddy keenness for Gillum was never reflected in any of the conversations I ever heard. In mid-October, I walked around the Volusia County mall in a MAGA hat as an experiment to test the media’s claims of a spreading anti-Trump backlash. Nobody seemed to care in the slightest. In fact, a self-described independent who said that he “had voted for Jimmy Carter” made a point of walking over to me as I sat in the mall’s food court to express his support for Trump’s policies. “I didn’t vote for him,” he said, “but he is delivering results.”
At the Daytona Beach watch party, a DeSantis volunteer noted to me that the media was too caught up in its adulation for Gillum to notice that under Trump counties like Volusia now harbor more registered Republicans than Democrats. “There is a silent majority in Florida that the media ignores,” she said. “I have been working on registration since Trump won. We have gotten stronger. DeSantis is going to win.” She said that early in the evening, long before any vote tallies suggested a DeSantis victory.
Journalists had invested a great deal in the storyline that the floundering of Dems in Florida governor’s races was due to the paucity of progressive choices. Stop running centrists, they argued, and field a full-blown leftist and the Democratic rank-and-file will flock to the polls. You won’t hear any journalists this morning owning up to that dumb advice. In fact, they are already trying to cast Gillum’s defeat as nonideological: simply the result of a “corruption smear” peddled by Republicans. It wasn’t, you understand, that he looked like a better ideological fit for Cuba than Florida. No, it was that the poor man had accidentally associated with an undercover FBI agent. “How an FBI investigation and a broken relationship tanked Andrew Gillum’s campaign,” the Miami Herald headlined a piece. Liberals will console themselves with that myth in the days to come.
The irony is that if the Dems had run a Manchin-like candidate this year instead of a socialist flim-flam artist and grifter they could have won the governorship. DeSantis is very capable, but retail politics in today’s absurdly unfair media climate is hardly his strong suit. “He doesn’t pander,” said a Port Orange attendee at the watch party, who has watched his rise over many years. “He keeps his promises. He is solid and hardworking. But he is not a great politician.” Gillum represented the reverse: a hopelessly demagogic media darling who didn’t give a tinker’s damn about responsible day-to-day governance of the state. Had he won, he would have spent much of his time in the green rooms of CNN and MSNBC, plotting a presidential run.
The media devoted far less time to propping up Bill Nelson, who clearly needed propping up. Another six-year Senate term was a tough sell for the faltering, over-the-hill hack who at times didn’t look like he could finish one. Scott, by contrast, projected a can-do vibrancy. The Dems ads casting him as a greedy, immoral-as-hell businessman, which appeared ubiquitously on local channels, fell flat.
The liberal propagandists of the media and academia have certainly made inroads in Florida; otherwise, Gillum wouldn’t have been so close to winning. But it appears that a slight majority of Floridians still fear left-wing pols who threaten to seize money more than Republicans capable of making some.