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Rep. Michael Waltz: The GOP's future is found in Florida

Originally published by Fox News on Feb. 6, 2021

By, Rep. Mike Waltz

Florida is a state made famous to most Americans by its sunny beaches, Disney and visiting retired grandparents. But Florida’s place in America’s elections has also made the state famous—or infamous depending on the year -- as its most impactful swing state.

Yet last election, Florida looked different.

As other swing states like Pennsylvania and Georgia remained close and ultimately broke for President Biden, Florida went decidedly red.

Not only did Florida deliver an astounding one million more votes for President Trump than he won in 2016, but the GOP also picked up two additional Congressional seats and expanded long held majorities in the state legislature.

The total win margin for President Trump tripled in Florida where statewide elections have been decided by one percent or less for years.

What lessons can be learned by the GOP’s success in Florida in 2020?

To start, over the years Florida has firmly established itself to its voters as a state that conducts its elections securely and efficiently.

Having learned its lesson in the wake of the 2000 recount, Florida had already made much-needed election integrity reforms decades ago. This includes pioneering successful, widespread vote-by-mail, a method of voting in Florida that has historically been an advantage for Republicans.

Unlike many other states in 2020, Florida voters trusted this method of voting and the right laws were in place to ensure its integrity. Perhaps most importantly, these votes were counted by the time the polls closed on election day, providing instant and credible results.

From the start of the 2020 election cycle, the Trump campaign closely coordinated with the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican Party of Florida, and county parties to ensure orchestration.

With this foundation firmly in place, over the last decade, Republicans have been able to focus on expanding the party apparatus with a new, diverse coalition across the state with candidates who reflected the vision for a remade party.

Yet in Florida, this was done not by appealing specifically to race or gender, but with ideas that attracted a coalition and candidates more closely resembling modern America.

As a result, new members of Florida’s congressional delegation include Cuban-Americans Maria Salazar and Carlos Gimenez, African American Byron Donalds, U.S. Navy Vet Scott Franklin and a millennial female business owner in Cat Cammack.

As Florida’s demographics have changed, especially with even more residents of Hispanic lineage who have fled the perils of anti-democratic socialist regimes or corrupt governments, the party has welcomed them with open arms and outreach.

One need only look at the margins in Republican turnout from the Hispanic-dominant Miami Dade County where Donald Trump increased his voting margin by 8 percentage points. 

This statewide trend wasn’t specific to traditional Cuban-American voters in the state. In my home area of Central Florida, President Trump increased his margins among Puerto Rican Floridians by a staggering 11 points.

While scores of Florida Hispanic voters were receptive to the Republican message of liberty and economic liberalism that countered the anti-democratic trends of their former homes, they also experienced first-hand the policies Republican lawmakers have carried out across the state.

Under Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, we’ve safely reopened the economy to help alleviate the lethal impact COVID-19 has had on our businesses and set the blueprint for other states to follow.

We’ve promoted and welcomed with open arms the Christian values carried by new citizens. Counter to pop culture trends that shun conventional values, we’ve continued to embrace them.

Florida Republicans have shown they can walk and chew gum when it comes for deregulation and promoting environmental stewardship.

In Congress, Florida Republicans worked with the Trump administration to secure funding for coastal restoration projects following the devastating impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Matthew, worked to give back control of oversight of our waters to the state, and received commitments to improve the Everglades.

Perhaps most importantly, Florida Republicans have gotten real results for working men and women, an increasingly large proportion of the Republican electorate. Whether it was fighting for sensible pandemic relief packages or lowering taxes, we delivered.

The 74 million Americans who voted for Donald Trump should be emboldened by the prospects of the new, emerging voter, not deterred.

The next few months will be a test as we navigate through an unprecedented time: an impeachment trial of a former president, dozens of radical executive orders from a Biden administration with little mandate and an increasingly hostile media.

But rest assured, the playbook has been set. Just follow Florida’s guide.

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