Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
Shifting from laughingstock to the epitome of efficiency, Florida’s mastery of the presidential election this week may erase the longstanding blemish that hanging chads and butterfly ballots branded on the Sunshine State two decades ago.
As of Friday morning, the race between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden was still a nail-biter nationally, with the former vice president holding an electoral-vote advantage as officials in a handful of states continued to tabulate ballots. [ED. NOTE: The race was called for President-elect Biden on Saturday.
But Florida escaped the spotlight, in part due to the Republican president’s decisive victory over Biden here. Despite polls that showed the candidates neck-and-neck or put the Democrat on the plus side heading into Election Day, Trump nailed down more than a three percentage-point win in Florida, a landslide victory in a state with a history of narrow margins.
The GOP’s triumph at the top of the ticket coursed down the ballot.
Republicans ousted two incumbent Democratic congresswomen from South Florida. Already overpowered by Republicans in the Legislature, Democrats lost five seats in the state House, giving the GOP a 36-seat edge in the 120-member chamber.
Dems didn’t fare as badly across the rotunda, but instead of picking up seats in swing districts, they’re struggling to hold on to their current 23-17 deficit in the state Senate. Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, was trailing GOP challenger Ileana Garcia by less than two dozen votes Friday in a race that was almost certainly headed to a recount.
While the Sunshine State and its 29 electoral votes will continue to be important in presidential elections, Tuesday’s results erased any question about Florida’s red-state, blue-state, purple-state status.
Republicans have held the governor’s mansion, controlled both chambers of the Legislature and dominated the state Cabinet for more than two decades. The land of Florida Man is firmly in the red-state column.
This week’s brutal drubbing led many Democrats to call for state party leaders to be toppled, but state Rep. Evan Jenne, co-leader of the House Minority Caucus, said he and his colleagues don’t have time to weep and moan.
Lawmakers will be sworn in and new legislative leaders will take the helm on Nov. 17 during a one-day organization session that’s largely ceremonial. Committees will work on bills in the weeks before the annual 60-day legislative session kicks off on March 2.
Jenne espoused a no-nonsense approach to the Democratic lawmakers’ role.
“Our mission right now, while the number may be different, has not changed one iota. Our mission is to fight like hell and do whatever we can to slow these bills down, to beat them up, make them as ugly as possible,” Jenne, D-Dania Beach, said. “We have to use our voices. That’s what we’ve got.”
Trump’s thrashing of Biden in Florida was rooted in a familiar Republican playbook for statewide races: Dominate in rural and mid-sized counties and try to hold down losses in urban areas.
But Trump also was bolstered by a strong showing in Miami-Dade County, where support from Cuban-Americans and other Hispanics helped prevent Biden from running up large margins in the Democrat-rich county.
Trump defeated Biden in 55 of the state’s 67 counties, losing only one rural county — Gadsden, west of Tallahassee, unofficial results show. In all, he beat Biden by more than 373,000 votes statewide, compared to a nearly 113,000-vote Florida margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
A large part of that improvement can be attributed to Miami-Dade, where Biden topped Trump by almost 85,000 votes, according to the unofficial results. That was down from Clinton’s 290,147-vote margin in Miami-Dade in 2016.
Biden also won by slightly smaller margins than Clinton in Democrat-heavy Broward and Palm Beach counties, but he won by larger margins in Orange and Hillsborough counties. In addition, the Democrat won by relatively small margins in Duval and Pinellas, which both were carried by Trump in 2016. The only other county that flipped to Biden was Seminole, where he won by 7,178 votes.
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