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There's Never Been a President from Florida

Florida was admitted to the union on March 3, 1845. Texas was admitted almost 10 months later, on Dec. 29, 1845. Texas is the second most populous state and Florida is third. Nevertheless, two presidents were born in Texas (Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson), and two others ran for president as Texans (the Bushes), while no Florida native has ever been elected president. Nor has any Florida governor or senator. In fact, among the 10 most populous states, Florida is the only one that has not produced a native son who made it to the White House. Ron DeSantis, beware. What's up here?

Politico took a look. Various politicians from Florida have run for president. Most never made it past New Hampshire and the rest floundered soon after New Hampshire. Oddly enough, Florida ought to be a good testing ground for presidential wannabes. Winning statewide office requires campaigning in two time zones, 10 television markets, and over 66,000 square miles, from the swamps of southern Florida to the Alabama and Georgia state lines. The state is full of transplants from all over the country so a successful Florida politician has met a much wider variety of people than a politician from say, Ohio. Still, no Floridian has gone all the way.

Part of problem stems from Florida's history. For the first century of its membership in the union, it was viewed as an alligator-and mosquito-infested backwater full of ignorant hicks. In the 1948 election, it had only 8 electoral votes, fewer than Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and a bunch of other states. Only after the population began exploding in the 1950s, due to widespread availability of air conditioning, did Florida start being taken seriously. In 1972, both parties held their conventions in Miami Beach. The Democrats' keynote speaker was then-governor Reubin Askew. After two terms as governor, he ran for president in 1984. He finished dead last in New Hampshire among the serious candidates, getting 1% of the vote. He dropped out the next day. In 2004, Bob Graham, a popular former governor of Florida and three-term senator tried to grab the brass ring. He missed badly. And everyone knows what happened to Jeb! and Little Marco in 2016.

Florida's image has changed somewhat over the years, but many people still see it as a gun-shaped paradise for grifters, rejects, weirdos, and people who went there to die. It doesn't get the respect that more established states with more established industries than Mouse worship get. And in reality, in education Florida is near the bottom of all the states. It is also the third worst state in the country in murder and rape.

Maybe DeSantis can overcome the Florida curse, but due to the state's image as something of a lightweight, he is starting in a hole. Combined with his (lack of) people skills, he has his work cut out for him. His ace in the hole could end up being who he is running against. You don't have to run faster than the bear. You only have to run faster than the other guy. (V)

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