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Could Trump lose Florida to Biden?

There was a time when Florida was one of the most hotly disputed swing states in the nation. It was the scene of the infamous "hanging chads" debacle during the Bush v. Gore battle in 2000. It hasn't been looking that way lately, however. The GOP now holds a registration advantage of nearly one million over the Democrats in the Sunshine State. While the red wave of 2022 was turning into a red trickle in other places, Florida Republicans established solid supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature.

So Donald Trump should at least have that state and its 30 electoral votes locked up, right? Not according to Mary Ellen Klas at Bloomberg. Yesterday, she boldly suggested that Florida's Democrats are correct when they say that their state is in play this November and Donald Trump could be in for an unpleasant surprise. Her reasoning leaves something to be desired, however.

The Florida Democratic Party insists the state is in play in November, and that Donald Trump could lose there, delivering a fatal blow to his campaign.

It’s quite a boast from a party that trails Republicans in voter registration by 940,000 voters, lost every statewide office in 2022 and saw Republicans win a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature...

Could the odds be in Democrats’ favor in 2024? Few pundits consider Florida a true swing state. But after two years of Governor Ron DeSantis pushing his extremist agenda, including one of the toughest abortion bans in the country, and policies curtailing the teaching of Black history and gender identity, there’s a case to be made that Florida voters have had enough of the Republican Party’s obsession with culture wars.

Let's take a look at Klas' reasoning here. She first cites the election of 1988 as a precedent. At that time, Democrats had a registration advantage of more than 900,000 voters, similar to the lead the GOP has today. And yet George H.W. Bush carried the state anyway. That's historically accurate, but it ignores a few other important factors. First of all, Bush won the Electoral College in a relative landslide, 426 to 112. He also won the popular vote by a comfortable margin of nearly ten points. Also, Michael Dukakis was simply a terrible candidate who didn't seem to resonate with many people, even in his own party. And finally, Bush was riding the coattails of Ronald Reagan, one of the most popular and successful presidents of the modern era, if not the entire history of the country. 

Compare that to the situation today. Donald Trump carried Florida in both 2016 and 2020, though by relatively narrow margins. Nobody is expecting this year's contest to be an electoral blowout (though it's still possible), but Trump is a known quantity there. Similar to the situation in 1988, this time it's the Democrats who have the terrible candidate, despite the fact that he's currently holding the office Trump seeks. Trump has had the steady support of Governor Ron DeSantis ever since he dropped out of the primary and DeSantis won his last election by twenty points.

It's true that Ron DeSantis' disapproval ratings have risen since he dropped out of the presidential primary, but he is still well above water. Klas further attempts to argue that both DeSantis and Trump are out of step with the voters on the issue of abortion. The Governor's six-week ban is admittedly one of the strictest in the nation, but Trump's position on the topic is far more fluid, preferring to leave the question to the states. No significant weakness for Trump shows up in the polls, either. When matched against Biden and RFK Jr., Trump leads by an average of eight points. If you remove Kennedy, he does even better. 

It's too soon to say that Trump has Florida locked up because four months is still nearly an eternity in politics and tomorrow's news cycle could make everything turn on a dime. It's also true that Donald Trump's personality may be a turnoff to some of Florida's voters, but it's nowhere near as much of a turnoff as Joe Biden's policies. Trump has smart people on his team. They will no doubt be keeping an eye on the polls in Florida and monitoring the temperature there. If the state starts looking tight, Trump will show up down there to hold some rallies and bring those chickens home to roost. Keep your fingers crossed.

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