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Rallies, Enthusiasm, and a Solid Ground Game Propelled Trump’s Florida Victory

WLRN Trump Rally
Daniel Varela
Miami Herald
President Donald Trumps speaks to a crowd near Opa-locka just days before Election Day.

President Trump’s decisive victory in the Sunshine State helped his party make gains across most of Florida, narrowing the gap in Democratic strongholds and increasing their margins in Republican areas.

The GOP also made gains down the ballot, picking up two seats in Congress, and expanding its majority in the state Legislature.

WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Local journalists are working hard to keep you informed on the latest developments across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.

Political experts say it was the enthusiasm, rallies, and simply knocking on doors that helped the president and his party perform so well in Florida. In the wake of this week’s election, Democrats are rethinking the party’s direction.

On the Florida Roundup, State Rep. Anna Eskamani and outgoing Senate President Bill Galvano joined hosts Tom Hudson and Melissa Ross to talk about the lessons learned from this week’s election.

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation.

TOM HUDSON: Tuesday night, you tweeted, “We need a whole new direction for the Florida Democrats.” What's that direction?

ANNA ESKAMANI: It takes a few points to elaborate on that. Step number one is that we need an actual message. You need to offer a contrast when you're running for office. And we know that the Republican political arm ran a major disinformation campaign around three main issues, calling every Democrat a socialist, saying that every Democrat wants to defund the police and attacking Democrats for the poor, decision by the Democratic Party to accept the PPP loan money that should have went to small businesses. They ultimately returned it, but even applying for it — the damage was done.

HUDSON: So those were the Republican messages against the Florida Democrats and other Democrats running. But what is the direction that you are seeing for Florida Democrats here 72 hours after the fact?

ESKAMANI: Those attacks came and there was no response, there was no constructive united response back, and I think it reflects how Democrats continue to lack values in the state of Florida, in large part, due to the fact that we are funded as a state party, in large part, by corporations.

And when corporations fund the Democratic Party, they do so in a small amount compared to what they give to the majority party. But it's enough to keep Democrats silent on key issues that impact working people, that impact communities of color.

Issues like poverty, like supporting the $15 minimum wage amendment, like dealing with evictions. And so my step one for the party is that we have to define our values and lead with those. And then we also need to invest in the field. And I think that was a very common concern across the state.

MELISSA ROSS: As the Florida GOP celebrates victories this week, how do you see Tallahassee leadership dealing with all of the continuing problems presented by the pandemic, the recession, and this slow economic turnaround?

BILL GALVANO: It was a phenomenal week for Republicans in the state of Florida. We had five state House seats picked up. So we're now at a 78-42 margin in the House. And we went into the election with 23-17 in the Senate. And by all accounts, we are probably going to pick up another Senate seat in South Florida. And of course, the president did phenomenally well in Florida as well. And I think the other thing I would like to highlight is the way we conducted the elections in Florida went without a hitch. And that's something I wish the other states could learn from.

ROSS: Let me ask you about that, because we're still waiting on counts in several key states. And it's actually due to Republican-controlled legislatures in those states that they were not allowed to start counting the ballots early. Do you think those legislatures should model themselves after the way Florida has handled the counting of early and mail-in ballots?

GALVANO: Well, if this election is an example of how we conduct our elections in Florida, then absolutely. Speaking with the secretary of state, Laurel Lee, the day after the election and congratulated her. But, you know, there are certain safeguards in place here in Florida, for example, even if you're mailing in a ballot, you have to get it in by 7 p.m. on Election Day so that the people can — the supervisors can — begin to make the tallies as opposed to this lingering slow drip that we're seeing and in other states.

Denise Royal produces The Florida Roundup. Her broadcast experience includes writing and producing for NBC’s The Today Show, Weekend Today, Weekend Nightly News, and MSNBC. She also worked as a Writer/Producer for ABC News and Nightly Business Report on PBS.