By Jim Ellis
Jan. 14, 2021 — Regardless of how many in-cycle Senate seats – there are 34 in the 2022 election cycle – come into political play, we can count on seeing Florida and North Carolina once again hosting crucial battleground campaigns.
Florida is always consistent in their close vote totals, particularly when remembering the 2000 presidential campaign — and pollsters, while typically forecasting tight finishes, have often missed the outcomes. In fact, the cumulative polling community has predicted close Democratic victories in the last four key statewide elections: two presidential (2016 & 2020), one senatorial (2018), one gubernatorial (2018), and been wrong on each occasion.
Since 2016, inclusive, Florida has hosted eight statewide races with Republicans winning seven. Yet, their average cumulative vote percentage for these eight victorious campaigns was just 50.7 percent, with the high point being 52.0 percent (Sen. Marco Rubio-R, 2016). Democrats recorded the low winning total: 50.04 percent — 6,753 votes from 8,059,155 votes cast; agriculture commissioner, 2018; winner Nikki Fried (D) vs. Matt Caldwell (R). The aggregate average among the statewide contests in these three most recent election years is 50.7 – 47.9 percent in the GOP’s favor.
With this background, Sen. Rubio will presumably seek a third term next year against what will surely be a highly competitive Democratic opponent. At this point, most of the speculation surrounds two Democratic House members, neither of whom has closed the door on either running for the Senate or challenging Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as he seeks a second term.
Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Winter Park) and Val Demings (D-Orlando) are the two most prominently mentioned prospective contenders, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one run for Senate and the other for governor. It is less likely that we would see a primary developing between the pair in one of the races.
Other names being floated are Rep. Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), who is always mentioned as a potential statewide candidate because he previously served both as attorney general and governor and lost two other statewide campaigns. Other potential contenders are Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and former Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Miami). The state’s lone Democratic office holder, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, is more often associated with running for governor as opposed to the Senate contest.