TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It could be do or die for Florida Democrats in 2024. On National Voter Registration Day, the state party worked to reclaim its margin over Republicans and prove there is still swing in this swing state.
After historic losses to Republicans in the 2022 midterms, which gave the GOP a supermajority in both legislative chambers, Florida Democrats are putting a lot of effort into voter registration. Tuesday alone, they gathered 500 volunteers to host 60 registration events up and down the state.
New leadership said it was just the start. State party chair Nikki Fried told us Democrats are working hard to eliminate their more than 500,000 voter deficit. It comes after the party lost its lead over Republican registrations in 2021, a first in state history.
"The last thing you want to go into the game with two touchdowns down — then not only have to overcompensate that — but perform all four quarters," Fried said. "We look at that — we got to at least equal the playing field. That's why we're focusing on voter registration."
Fried said Florida Democrats would no longer rely on outside groups to gather voters. Instead, the organization was taking back control of registration efforts for the first time in years.
Democrats are also putting a renewed focus on college campuses, changing up their communication strategy by offering an agenda instead of just GOP criticism. Plus, Fried said they would target the growing number of Florida voters who are not affiliated with a party along with disillusioned Republicans and also try to reclaim the vital Hispanic vote.
"In 2023 alone, we have seen Democratic numbers increase by close to 50,000 in the Hispanic community," Fried said. "At the same time, a tremendously large decrease in the Republican voter registration in Hispanics."
Fried believed GOP-backed immigration reform laws, which include the controversial migrant relocation program, have helped push the demographic back in their direction. Democrats, she said, also see good signs after a recent mayoral win in Jacksonville.
However, State GOP Chair Christian Ziegler wasn't sweating things when he spoke earlier this summer.
"All indicators show that Florida is going in the right, pun intended, direction," Ziegler said.
Ziegler felt national issues like border security and education reform had Republicans in a good spot.
"I think it's going to mobilize a base that you've never seen," Ziegler said. "A group of voters that you've never seen turn out not just on the Republican side, but actually a lot of independents, and Democrats as well are tired of this."
Recent polling also showed that President Joe Biden's approval has been underwater. Some think he could be a drag on the Democratic ticket if things don't change.
Fried, however, said she planned to lean into Biden's accomplishments, touting things like the infrastructure bill.
"Democrats have always done a really poor job of bragging about our accomplishments," Fried said. "That is on us, that is absolutely on us. The fact that all this money is coming into the state of Florida for bridges, roads and construction projects, and we allowed the Republicans to take the narrative from us."
Florida Republicans, meanwhile, sent out a fundraising blast to supporters Tuesday afternoon. The Florida GOP focused on U.S. Sen. Rick Scott's re-election effort in the email.
The party said, "Florida's U.S. Senate seat is among the most important holds for Republicans next November."
Keeping Scott in place would bolster Republican efforts to secure a majority in the upper chamber next year.
Former Florida U.S. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is among the Democrats trying to unseat Scott. Her campaign points out that Scott won his seat by a thin margin of about 10,000 votes in 2018.