How Trump’s South Florida surge helped wipe out two House Democrats

 How Trump’s South Florida surge helped wipe out two House Democrats

At the heart of that threesome is the 26th District, which is likely the only Obama/Clinton/Trump district in the entire country. This seat, which includes the southwestern Miami area and the Florida Keys, saw Clinton expand on Barack Obama’s 55-44 win and take it 57-41, but that trend reversed itself dramatically last year as Trump carried it 53-47.

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This 22-point swing to the right from 2016 wasn’t just the largest shift by margin in Florida, it’s the largest we’ve seen in either direction for any of the 320 congressional districts we’ve calculated presidential results for so far. Unsurprisingly, this transformation had deleterious effects for Democrats downballot as well, as Republican Carlos Gimenez unseated freshman Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell 52-48.

A similarly brutal swing also pummeled Team Blue in the neighboring 27th District, where Republican Maria Elvira Salazar likewise denied Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala a second term. This seat, which is made up of the southern Miami area and Coral Gables, had also moved to the left between 2012 and 2016, going from 53-46 Obama to 59-39 Clinton, but Biden’s margin got pancaked down to 51-48. That big drop doomed Shalala, who ran behind the ticket and lost her rematch to Salazar 51-49; two years earlier, it was Shalala who won 52-46.

Trump also vastly improved his fortunes in another nearby seat where he’d struggled in 2016. The 25th District, which stretches across the Everglades to include portions of the state’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts, had dipped from 54-45 for Mitt Romney to just 50-48 for Trump, but this time, it supported the top of the ticket by a huge 61-38 margin. Veteran Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who easily prevailed in 2018 despite the blue wave, won re-election unopposed this time.

Trump’s surge wasn’t confined to these three districts, though. Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson’s 24th District in the northern Miami area, which includes a large Black and Caribbean American population, remained safely blue turf, but it sank from 83-15 Clinton to 75-24 Biden. Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz’s 23rd District around Broward County, a diverse seat that’s also home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the country, also slipped from 62-36 Clinton to 58-41 Biden. One of those new Trump voters was Donald Trump, who registered to vote at his Mar-a-Lago lair in the district for 2020.

Veteran Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings’ 20th District, in the West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale areas, likewise fell from 80-18 Clinton to 77-22 Biden. Finally, Trump also made gains to the north in the 9th District, a suburban Orlando seat with a large Puerto Rican population. The shift wasn’t as large as it was in South Florida, but the constituency, which is held by Democratic Rep. Darren Soto, still moved from 55-42 Clinton to a narrower 53-46 for Biden.

None of these incumbents had trouble winning, but Sunshine State Democrats will be working hard to figure out how to reverse these trends in 2022, both to prevent further erosion in the House and to preserve their hopes of winning statewide.

Elsewhere, Democrats had hoped for a Biden surge to buoy them but didn’t see much of one. The 13th District around St. Petersburg had slid from 55-44 Obama to 50-46 Clinton, and Biden carried it by a similar 51-47 margin. Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist ended up winning 53-47 in a contest that attracted no serious outside spending. Biden also only made small gains compared to Clinton in several GOP-held seats that Team Blue targeted downballot but nevertheless stayed red, like the 15th, 16th, and 18th Districts.

A few areas did see some leftward movement. Republican Rep. John Rutherford’s 4th District in the Jacksonville and St. Augustine areas, a relatively well-educated suburban seat, remained solidly red, but Trump’s margin shrunk from 62-34 to 60-39, the largest such shift in the state. Not coincidentally, Biden became the first Democrat to carry Duval County (whose government is consolidated with the city of Jacksonville) since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

The second-largest move to the left, perhaps surprisingly, was in Trump sycophant Matt Gaetz’s 1st District in the Panhandle, which Trump won 68-28 in 2016 but by a smaller 66-32 this time. Biden also continued to make gains in the 7th District, a suburban Orlando seat that was volatile turf at the start of the decade. The seat went from an extremely narrow win for Obama in 2012 to 51-44 Clinton, and Biden took it 55-44 last year as Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy was winning 55-43.

Unfortunately for Democrats, the next congressional map is likely to be worse than the current one. Florida voters passed two amendments to the state constitution in 2010 that attempted to ban partisan gerrymandering, and the state Supreme Court used those measures to curtail the GOP’s congressional and state Senate gerrymanders in 2015 and redraw the boundaries. The court, however, has moved hard to the right since then thanks to GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis’ appointments, making it unlikely to aggressively enforce these amendments again to stop Republicans from implementing a new gerrymander.

Senate

IA-Sen, IA-Gov: Rep. Cindy Axne, who is the state’s only Democratic member of Congress, said Friday that she wasn’t ruling out either a Senate or gubernatorial bid. Axne told the show Iowa Press, “Listen, we’ve got a couple of seats coming up in the next couple of years that are really important to the integrity of our country. And I’m not going to leave anything off the table, but I haven’t made a commitment on what I’ll be looking at at this time.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley and his fellow Republican, Gov. Kim Reynolds, will both be up for re-election next year, and neither of them have announced their plans yet. Reynolds’ campaign, however, announced Thursday that she had raised $1.6 million during 2020 and had $2.1 million available, so it would be a big surprise if she didn’t seek another term. Grassley, though, will be 89 on Election Day, and he reiterated Monday that he hadn’t decided if he’ll run for an eighth term.

PA-Sen: Democratic state Sen. Sharif Street says he’s considering a bid for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat but doesn’t plan to make a final decision until the end of the year. Street, who first won a seat in the state Senate in 2016, is the son of former Philadelphia mayor John Street.

Governors

CT-Gov: Attorney Tim Herbst says he isn’t ruling out another run for governor next year, but he sounds unlikely to take the plunge. Herbst finished fourth in the 2018 GOP primary with 18% of the vote.

RI-Gov: Democratic Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea says she’s considering a bid for governor but will “wait until it’s closer to ’22” to decide. Gorbea is term-limited in her current post.

House

OH-11, Cleveland, OH Mayor: Cleveland City Councilman Blaine Griffin, whose name had come up as a possible Democratic contender either for Congress or mayor, says he will instead seek re-election this year.

Mayors

 Boston, MA Mayor: Both Boston Health and Human Services Chief Marty Martinez and state Rep. Jon Santiago have confirmed that they’re considering running for mayor, while Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins has announced that he’ll stay out of the contest.

New York City, NY Mayor: Billionaire John Catsimatidis, a Trump supporter who unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for mayor in 2013, said Thursday that he was considering running as a Democrat this year. Catsimatidis, who in 2012 likened tax increases on the wealthy to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust, said he would decide over the next few weeks.

The city’s new instant runoff system would likely make it difficult for someone like Catsimatidis, who recently told Politico that Trump “did a lot of good stuff for our country, and he doesn’t deserve the treatment he’s getting right now,” to win enough support to take the Democratic nomination, though he argued it would actually benefit him. Catsimatidis said, “The Democratic Party needs somebody with courage to stand up against the crazy Democrats,” and continued, “With ranked choice voting in the primary, who knows what happens? … I think 80% of New Yorkers have common sense, and want somebody with common sense and a business head.”

The one thing Catsimatidis seems right about, though, is that it would be very difficult for a Republican to win this year’s contest in this very blue city. Even Bronx GOP chair Mike Rendino acknowledged, “The odds are insurmountable. But then again, I’m the chair of the Bronx Republican party—when are the odds not insurmountable?” So far the most prominent Republican in the running appears to be former Wall Street executive Sara Tirschwell, who launched her campaign on Monday.

St. Petersburg, FL Mayor: Former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch announced Friday that he was running to succeed his fellow Democrat, termed-out Mayor Rick Kriseman. Welch, who would be the city’s first Black mayor, has been preparing his campaign for a long time, and he earned an endorsement a month ago from Rep. Charlie Crist.

The field currently includes two other Democrats, former state Rep. Wengay Newton and City Councilwoman Darden Rice. The filing deadline is June 18 for the Aug. 24 nonpartisan primary: If no one wins a majority of the vote, the two contenders with the most support will advance to a Nov. 2 general election.

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