AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — If you’ve been consuming fashionable media for some time, you’ve read a story at least once a decade headlined “Brazil: The Emerging Superstate.” I’m sorry, but in which of those decades was it that Brazil finally emerged? Sad truth be told, the answer seems to have been, just as the answer seems likely to continue to be, “Not yet.”
Not so with Florida. It happened so fast that not even journalists who spot six or seven trends for every one that actually emerges picked it up. It may be hard to believe, but it was only 11 years ago that, under then-Gov. Charlie Crist’s somnolent leadership, Florida seemed to be set in its ways as a kind of big, peninsular Arkansas: placid, sunbaked, and resolutely backwater, by both history and habit.
Look at us now:
- The GOP redistricted aggressively this year and turned what had been a 16 Republican–11 Democrat congressional delegation into 20 Republicans and 8 Democrats. (The 2020 census added a seat.) Not bad for a state that former President Donald Trump won by only 3 percentage points in 2020.
- In doing so, Florida provided the national GOP with control of the House. Which nobody in D.C. will be allowed to forget.
- The Florida House delegation has been historically — and notoriously — underpowered in Washington. Not now. As of this writing, the favorite to be the new chairman of the Ways and Means Committee is Vern Buchanan of Sarasota. While he may have been a long shot for conference chair (the third-ranking post in House leadership), Byron Donalds of Naples is a sure shot for future leadership. The dean of the delegation, Mario Díaz-Balart of Miami, will be leading the increasingly successful GOP outreach to Hispanic voters. And the star of the 2022 freshman class seems likely to be Aaron Bean of Jacksonville.
- Florida voters elected Republican supermajorities in both houses of the state legislature, clearing the runway for the GOP Express. Look for Florida to be the national leader on education, business regulation, law enforcement, and the political culture. Among other hot-button issues.
- Sen. Marco Rubio was reelected by 17 points after being outspent by $26 million. (There must be a Guinness record in there somewhere.) Finally comfortable in his own skin, the senior senator should now become the leading GOP voice on foreign affairs and the chairman-in-waiting of a major committee.
- Junior Sen. Rick Scott, still in his first term, has positioned himself as a credible alternative to GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. And if you doubt Scott’s political skills, consider this: As Scott wraps up his duties as head of the Senate campaign committee, the angry intraparty debate rages: Who blew the Senate — was it Trump, or was it McConnell?
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was elected four years ago in a photo finish, was reelected in a landslide, even while running behind his attorney general and just a tick ahead of his chief financial officer.
- Even God has been voting Republican here. The omnipresent Crist, running for governor yet again this year, began the general election campaign within the margin of error. But he was soon subjected to a media blackout as the state was ravaged by Hurricane Ian. (Alone among recent Florida governors, Crist never saw a Big One on his watch. Even Jeb Bush, who was term-limited out in 2006, seemed to be more quote-worthy in the storm-crazy Florida media.) As Ian passed to the north, President Joe Biden and his good-looking first lady flew in and toured the storm-damaged areas with DeSantis and his even-better-looking first lady. Good visuals. The tour received wall-to-wall coverage, ending with the president explicitly approving the governor’s response. The Bidens couldn’t find time for Crist on that trip.
- And then in October, after Crist, in the view of many observers, had won the only debate with DeSantis, Crist was struck by another bolt from the blue. His campaign manager quit to handle a “personal matter,” which, it was soon revealed after a fumbled coverup, was that the campaign manager was arrested on a domestic-violence charge against the mother of his child. Bad visuals, and especially so for a candidate making women’s rights the centerpiece of his campaign. In Florida, God voted the straight GOP ticket this year.
- And finally, as you may have read somewhere, Florida is home to the two leading GOP presidential prospects for 2024 — Trump and DeSantis. Trump declared his candidacy last night and hopes for — and will doubtless attempt to contrive — a multi-candidate race so as to maximize the value of his high floor while minimizing the impact of his low ceiling. DeSantis must first prepare the governing document for his second term, the budget, after which he will decide on the national race.
The Republican Party hasn’t had a solid base since the Nixon-Reagan days in California. Now it has one. The political superstate has emerged, and it’s Florida.
Neal B. Freeman is a longtime contributor to The American Spectator.