Sunshine State: Betting Value On A Duo Of Florida Election Races?

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on September 1, 2021

Two of the highest-profile 2022 races are both in the Sunshine State, with Marco Rubio’s Senate seat up for grabs and leading potential 2024 candidate Ron DeSantis trying to cement that status with a reelection victory. Some Democrats have hopes of unseating one or both of them, so the question is, can either be at any risk?

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Florida Senate Race

We’ll start with the state’s US Senate seat, where former 2016 Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio is trying to win a third term. An impressive electoral performer, in 2016 Rubio overperformed Donald Trump significantly, especially in heavily Cuban areas of Miami, on route to a convincing win on a night where the top of the ticket only squeaked over the line in Florida. Rubio was thought to be under some pressure in a GOP primary, but with Ivanka Trump deciding not to run and Matt Gaetz running into allegations of illegal conduct, his run to the nomination is much easier.

The GOP are 80 cents to win this seat, which might have presented value with either Gaetz or Ivanka, but now is a fairly attractive price. Rubio is able to outperform the statewide trend, as shown in 2016, and even now, Florida is more right wing than it has been in many years, as evidenced by Trump doing 2% better there in 2020 than he did in 2016 despite doing worse nationally. The price may seem superficially unattractive, but the Florida GOP is not losing this Senate seat, and locking in as close to guaranteed profit as you can is something to be considered in spots.

Val Demings will be the Democratic nominee, but the fact that she is 93 cents means there is no value to be gained from this fact.

The Governorship

DeSantis’ race is the much more interesting race, both in terms of public perception and on PredictIt. DeSantis is only 72 cents to be the Governor after the 2022 election, with Charlie Crist, the ex-Republican Governor who switched to the Democratic Party and is now a sitting Congressman, at 22 cents and the lone elected statewide Democrat, Nikki Fried, at 12 cents. DeSantis is correctly seen as more vulnerable than Rubio, but the question isn’t whether the market has their chances relative to each other correct – it’s whether DeSantis has nearly a 30% chance of losing or not.

If you believe the polls, then the market price is reasonable, with St Pete’s showing a close race, a recent poll from a less reputable pollster showing DeSantis’ approvals well down (and Crist beating him by 14%), and Susquehanna showing a DeSantis +3 result. These sorts of polling results, together with the fact that DeSantis beat a worse candidate than Crist in 2018 by a measly half a percentage point, can lead you to a compelling argument that this race is competitive, and that Crist at 22 cents is an attractive proposition.

The problem with that logic is that Florida did move right between 2016 and 2020, and even if you are, like me, broadly optimistic about Democratic chances in 2022, the chances the national environment is much better for Democrats than 2020 is pretty hard. So, you’d need an incumbent DeSantis to underperform the state’s partisan bent by 3% at least — all the while being a leading prospective Presidential candidate, with all the advantages that can convey. There are too many people who have hitched their wagons to DeSantis for them to sit back and not flood the state with money, surrogates, and help, if there’s any real reason for concern in October 2020.

Throw in the following facts, and you’ll see just how hard it is to think Crist could win:

  • The last time Democrats won the Governorship in Florida was 1994
  • Democrats haven’t won major statewide office in Florida since 2012
  • Crist’s fundraising has been anemic

And, because this really should go without saying, but also:

  • The Florida Democratic Party might be the worst state Party in the country

It matters that it’s Florida, because we can list the polls that have it close and talk about this as a competitive state, but it isn’t. Florida is a Republican state where the margins may seem superficially close, but the race itself isn’t particularly winnable for Democrats.

Put it another way, but if Democrats couldn’t win a Senate seat with an incumbent in the 2018 wave year, and then couldn’t even come close to winning it in 2020, why on earth would there be any case for it going blue in 2022?

The answer is simple — Democrats find DeSantis to be odious. Whatever your view on whether that is a fair statement or not, it’s clear that Democrats hate DeSantis in a real and substantial way, and that hatred is blinding them to the real and substantial reasons why he is very likely to win again.

Conclusion

The Florida GOP are undervalued in the markets in both races, as a combination of relatively close 2018 and 2020 margins, plus Democratic animus towards the Republicans, makes the market softer than they should be. Both Marco Rubio and Ron DeSantis are in very good spots to be re-elected in 2022, and both represent clear values at their depressed prices, compared to the likelihood that Florida is going to Florida, and continue to elect Republicans to statewide office, as they almost always do.

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