Lessons from the GOP's big winners
Well, the red wave wasn't.
But there were bright spots for Republicans, and trying to parse why they won is probably key to winning the next election for conservatives.
Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis drew a lot of attention as the night's big Republican winner in last night's race, knocking out his Democrat opponent, former governor Charlie Crist, with a 19.4-point blowout.
But there was also Sen. Rand Paul, who won with an even higher margin. At last count, Paul won with a 22.6-point lead over his Democrat opponent, Charles Booker.
What explains these incredible margins of victory? DeSantis won his original governor's chair on the barest of margins, and then won huge numbers of Florida voters over.
Paul, who won his first Senate election by 11 percentage points in conservative Kentucky two terms ago, has since doubled his margin of victory on term three, meaning he, too, has persuaded more voters.
It may come down to the rule of scandals also applying to why candidates win big in elections.
What is the rule of scandals? Well, conventional political wisdom holds that if the average voter can recite a politician's scandal in a sentence or two, the scandal sticks to the politician. Candidate A uttered a racist statement. Politician B took a little envelope full of cash from a developer in exchange for a favor. Politician C seeded nursing homes with COVID patients. If a scandal is so tangled and complicated that it can't be uttered in one sentence, the politician skates. This explains a lot about why Bill Clinton got away with as much as he did on Whitewater, the Clinton Foundation, all the corrupt things he was involved in — and why he didn't on Monica Lewinsky. The latter scandal was easily recitable. The others were not.
Ron DeSantis won his voters over by his performance in office. His crown was full of stars, all of which could be described in a sentence. One of the brightest was his stellar performance during and especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian — ordering the evacuations, getting the aid to the needy, getting the place cleaned up, and restoring the bridge to Sanibel Island ahead of time and under budget. Voters are accustomed to chaos and incompetence in situations like these and often give politicians a wide margin for error. But DeSantis got the job done, and the message sent is that he will get all jobs done when they need doing. He's a good man in a storm.
He also challenged corporate Disney, which sought to impose its transgender morality onto the Florida voting public as a wokester corporation. The fuse was lit over a reasonable law passed in the Florida Legislature that sex education not be shoved in the faces of seven-year-olds in public schools. Disney twisted that into a phony claim of "don't say gay," which wasn't what the law was about, and vowed to bankroll opposition politicians who would repeal that law. DeSantis not only refused to back down in the face of that coercion, but yanked Disney's privileged corporate tax status as a sort of self-governing entity, which had been put into place when its Disneyworld park was built some fifty years ago, and made Disney live by the same laws as the rest of the state's companies. That was effective action that could be recited easily, and the wokester company shut up after that.
He also was defiant and effective on COVID restrictions at the height of the COVID pandemic, protecting and saving Florida's elderly and vulnerable citizens from the fate of the elderly suffered in Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and California, where COVID patients were forced by government order into nursing homes, where they infected and killed thousands. He also defied the mass lockdowns seen in those states, which severely damaged those economies. DeSantis kept Florida safe without the lockdowns, the business shutdowns, the killings of old people, by focusing on protecting the vulnerable while also protecting the healthy. He took amazing hell from it from the Washington establishment and COVID industrial complex, with big-money interests demanding vaccines and hospitalizations, but stood firm in the storm, and his state came out of the pandemic far healthier than other states that embraced lockdowns. Again, a good man to have during a storm.
Lastly, he (and Texas governor Greg Abbott) shifted the momentum on the migrant surge, after the Biden administration failed to enforce the border, allowing some two million unvetted illegals into the country. He launched the famous Martha's Vineyard "publicity stunt," transporting a planeload of migrants to the tony sanctuary city, which indeed was a small but memorable act, driving home the point that the border crisis was the country's crisis. It wasn't fair to shove the flood onto just the border states to pay for, which was the Biden administration's replacement-theory approach. He was screamed at in the press for it — but he didn't back down, and it sure as heck didn't hurt him in this last governor's race. Again, a very nameable act with very concrete results.
Rand Paul was pretty much the same way.
He is known for his challenge to Obamacare during his earlier terms.
The nameable things he did as senator during his current term, which is a little trickier to do as a senator, given that the Senate is a talk shop, are nevertheless comparable in quality to those of Ron DeSantis.
Rand Paul made headlines by being the most important challenger to Dr. Anthony Fauci and his lockdown mania. He pressed Fauci on his business dealings and, even more important, on his claims to be the embodiment of science, hauling him in for hearings. He pressed Fauci about the most obvious anti-scientific view held by Fauci who was demanding mass vaccinations, even of those who had had COVID. What the heck did he know about natural immunity? Paul asked. He exposed the hypocrisies. That made an impact.
Rand Paul also demanded accountability on Joe Biden's monstrously huge Ukraine aid packages. Paul wasn't necessarily against helping the country; he just insisted that the money not be stolen, or turn into a perma-war hog wallow with special interests rolling in the dough, as happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the victory-less war extending for decades. Paul's proposed amendment didn't pass in the Senate, and the Ukraine package was passed without the added auditing or accountability that such amounts of cash badly need, but it made an impact. You can recite it in one sentence. Paul demanded that money spent on a foreign overseas project not be wasted or stolen. He sure as heck gets credit for that.
Two other Republicans won their seats by large margins: Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, for defying COVID lockdowns, and Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida, for sticking it to sleazy socialist tyrants abroad, through sanctions and simply speaking out. As with DeSantis, and Paul, these things done are nameable, and they win voters over.
They are a heckuva lot more important to winning than just "owning the libs" and saying outrageous things on Twitter, which some GOP candidates who performed far less impressively have done, winning headlines but not votes. Let's see more of the hard acts and challenges seen in these big-margin GOP winners to make the red wave a reality next time.
Image: Official photo via shareable Britannica.