Following his apparent 59/40 romp to reelection over Charlie Crist, Eugene Volokh wants descriptive answers to the question of why Ron DeSantis did so well, particularly in contrast to his razor-thin 2018 victory (where he won by less than half a point). What's the secret of his political success?
I'm not going to fully venture an answer to that question. But there's an important data point that I want to flag which is I think easily overlooked in the coming DeSantis mania, namely: that Marco Rubio had almost the exact same result as did DeSantis. He prevailed in his Senate race over Val Demings 57/41. This also represents a significant improvement over Rubio's margin in his last race (which was in 2016, not 2018, so not apples-to-apples, but still pertinent)
I mention this because it suggests that a consilient explanation for DeSantis' strong performance probably should be one that also explains Rubio's near-identical performance. The similarity in results is especially notable given that Rubio and DeSantis don't seem like especially similar political figures or cut similar profiles beyond both being conservative Republicans -- it'd be hard to come up with personal attributes that both share that represent plausible explanations for explaining their respective performance. That DeSantis and Rubio seem quite different (we're talking about DeSantis, not Rubio, as a potential 2024 contender) makes it all the more noteworthy that they basically had identical margins this election. That suggests that the factors driving the results had less to do with DeSantis' personal political genius (unless that genius is something he somehow shares with Rubio), and more on broader structural considerations that have little to do with DeSantis-qua-DeSantis.
So, to move towards an answer to Volokh's question of why DeSantis did so much better in 2022 than 2018, some plausible factors (none of which naturally demonstrate particular "political brilliance" by DeSantis) include:
- The general "reddening" of Florida.
- 2018 being a worse year for Republicans than 2022.*
- Incumbency advantage.