With much still remaining to be decided in gubernatorial, senatorial, and congressional races across the land, the election night’s biggest winner appears to have been the man who became the face of the resistance to the insane COVID regime of forced masking, forced vaccinations, and forced business and school closures—Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
Under DeSantis’s leadership, Florida defied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the rest of the public-health cabal by never imposing a mask or vaccine mandate and by generally keeping schools and businesses open. In many instances, the state also prevented local areas from imposing mask or vaccine mandates. Florida even sued the CDC over the agency’s claim that it had the authority to impose a nationwide mask mandate on public transportation. As DeSantis put it in his acceptance speech, “Florida was a refuge of sanity when the world went mad.”
Now DeSantis has been handsomely rewarded by the Sunshine State’s voters, winning by almost 20 percentage points (59.5 to 39.8 percent) over former governor Charlie Crist, with an estimated 93 percent of the vote counted as of this writing.
Lest this might seem commonplace, it’s actually an extraordinary feat. This is the largest margin of victory in a Florida gubernatorial race in the past 40 years. What’s more, no Florida governor running for reelection over those four decades has fared even 3 points better—in terms of margin of victory—than he did in his initial election win. On average, Florida governors running for reelection over that span have fared 8 points worse than they did the first time around. DeSantis, in marked contrast, appears poised to do about 19 points better than he did when he upset Andrew Gillum by 0.4 points in 2018. This is a perfect illustration of how voters will enthusiastically reward the potent—though rare—combination of principle, courage, and competence.
The nation’s third-largest state isn’t the only place where it’s difficult to cruise to reelection as the chief executive. Over the past 40 years, presidents have done slightly worse on average when running for reelection than when first winning election. George H. W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all fared worse during their reelection campaigns—in terms of margin of victory or defeat—than they did the first time around.
Indeed, only one president seeking reelection over that 40-year span fared more than 3 points better than he did during his initial election win. That was Ronald Reagan—who won by 8.5 points more in 1984 than he did when beating Jimmy Carter in 1980.
Speaking of Carter, just a few days ago, California governor Gavin Newsom—one of the biggest fans of authoritarian COVID decrees—opined that Joe Biden has been conducting “a master class” in governance. The response from Florida voters suggests that they think the master class is actually being taught by DeSantis.