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November 9, 2022

A Big Winner and Two Losers From Yesterday’s Midterms

Ron DeSantis stole the show yesterday, but a key swing state and a former president lost unequivocally.

Just one day before the 2018 gubernatorial election in Florida, a Quinnipiac poll showed Republican Ron DeSantis trailing former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by a whopping seven points.

Lucky for DeSantis — and lucky for the people of Florida — that voters, not polls, decide elections. The following day, DeSantis ended up winning by seven-tenths of a point. Since then, the governor has enacted staunchly conservative policies, waded into the culture wars against Disney and its ilk, and counterpunched smartly at a mainstream media that’s inclined to twist the news against him at every turn.

Yesterday, DeSantis won 62 of the state’s 67 counties and beat Democrat challenger Charlie Crist by nearly 20 points. Where he won by some 30,000 votes in 2018, he won by 1,500,000 yesterday. Yes, by Election Day, everyone was predicting a DeSantis win. No one, though, was predicting a win of this magnitude.

If you’re not stirred by this Churchillian passage from his victory speech last night, you might want to check your pulse:

We have embraced freedom. We have maintained law and order. We have protected the rights of parents. We have respected our taxpayers, and we reject woke ideology.

We fight the woke in the legislature. We fight the woke in the schools. We fight the woke in the corporations. We will never ever surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die!

“USA! USA!” some supporters chanted during DeSantis’s rousing victory speech in Tampa last night. “Two more years! Two more years!” others shouted, in a not-so-subtle call for DeSantis to run for president in 2024.

“We saw freedom and our very way of life in so many other jurisdictions in this country wither on the vine. Florida held the line,” he said. “Florida was a refuge of sanity when the world went mad. We stood as a citadel of freedom for people across this county and indeed across the world.”

DeSantis thus sent a thunderclap across the political landscape, and he made Florida look like Arkansas in terms of its political imbalance. Indeed, it’s the first time since Reconstruction that Florida hasn’t had a single Democrat holding statewide office.

So Ron DeSantis and the people of Florida were big winners yesterday. But there were big losers, too. Among them: The people of Pennsylvania.

In the darkest moment of yesterday’s election, the least qualified, least capable, furthest left candidate, John Fetterman, prevailed over a heart surgeon and highly successful businessman, Republican Mehmet Oz. Perhaps the worst part of this outcome was that nearly a million Pennsylvanians had cast their ballots before Fetterman’s painful and utterly disqualifying debate performance. So now Pennsylvania will send to The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body a man who is medically incapable of deliberating at any real depth, a man who has hardly held a real job in his life, and a man whose past policy prescriptions include freeing convicted murderers, creating heroin-injection sites, and banning fracking.

Another loser was Donald Trump. Things clearly didn’t go the former president’s way last night. There was no red wave, and there was no streak of wins by Trump-endorsed Republicans. There were, however, large and glaringly high-profile losses for Trump candidates, including Oz, Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, New Hampshire Senate candidate Don Bolduc, and, it appears, Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters. Kari Lake is down but not yet out in the governor’s race in Arizona.

And two candidates whom Trump publicly opposed — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — won big last night, while Trump’s candidate for Senate there, Herschel Walker, appears to have barely limped his way into a December 6 runoff against hard-left Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock. Walker may yet win that runoff, and the GOP may yet eke out a 51-49 Senate, but that doesn’t discount the weakness of Walker’s candidacy — a candidacy that caused some 200,000 Georgians to split their tickets by voting for both Kemp and Warnock.

Let’s wrap up by going back to the big winner, Ron DeSantis: “We have accomplished more than anybody thought possible four years ago,” he said toward the end of his victory speech, “but we’ve got so much more to do — and I have only begun to fight.”

That last part was a reference to a fellow sailor and patriot, John Paul Jones, and it would serve his fellow Republicans well to remember it going forward. Conservative principles are attractive and popular when articulately conveyed and competently carried out.

But candidates clearly matter to Republican voters. And that message must be remembered as well.

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