Ron DeSantis has recently taken to bragging about how people are fleeing California and New York and flocking to Florida. He credits this to his leadership. Is there any truth in this? It is true that Florida was the fastest-growing state last year and maybe it is where woke goes to die, but it is not that simple. Florida is also where old people go to die and that has been true for decades, regardless of who was governor. The old joke is that Florida is God's waiting room. They go for the warm weather and cheap housing, not for ideology. During Rick Scott's administration, population growth was 1.5% to 1.8% Under DeSantis it is 1.0% to 1.1%. Put another way, since DeSantis took over, the growth rate has dropped precipitously.
The claim that Californians are rushing to Florida should be tempered somewhat by the fact that for every six Californians who moved to Florida last year, five Floridians moved to California. The flows are almost equal. And one-third of Californians who moved to Florida were over 50, compared to 20% for Californians who moved to other states. A state mostly full of old people is a demographic nightmare, something DeSantis never mentions. Also relevant is that far more Californians who left their state went to Arizona rather than Florida, which undercuts the idea that they moved to Florida because they wanted to be his subjects. It further supports the idea that the flow is old people who want warm weather and cheap housing, something both Arizona and Florida have.
DeSantis also claims that since he just won a gubernatorial election in a landslide, he is a shoo-in to win the presidential election. Yes, DeSantis won reelection in Florida by 19 points in 2022. Congratulations. However, Michael Dukakis won reelection in the Massachusetts gubernatorial election in 1986 by 38 points—double DeSantis margin—and went on to lose the presidential election 2 years later. Being popular in your home state doesn't always translate into being popular nationally. Things that resonate with local voters don't always resonate with voters 1,000 miles away. Republicans might want to ask themselves if DeSantis is their Dukakis. (V)