Is the DeSantis redistricting gamble blowing up?

Over at TFS+ on Monday, we broke down the specifics around Governor DeSantis proposed Congressional map. At the time I wrote that piece, I was convinced the map was the “hidden” or “secret” map I was long expecting- the partisan gerrymander that split Duval County in half and manipulated lines around the Tampa Bay area and Orlando.

As someone who was intimately involved in the 2002 redistricting fights on the Democratic side, I assumed, wrongly that the DeSantis’ map was provided by the RNC or NRCC and would find universal support among lawmakers who would be coerced to accept it, by the national party.

Given that historically, Governor’s never weigh into this process and issue veto threats (however cloaked it may have been, the message was clear) until AFTER maps pass the floor of both houses, I was sure DeSantis was actually controlling the situation.

Well as it turns out, the Governor who has long impressed me with his focus, discipline and ability to use power seems to have erred badly this time. The Governor very clearly does not have the Senate on his side, and the House doesn’t at this moment seem particularly bothered by his proposals either, though it must be stated DeSantis proposal is closer to what we have been seeing coming out of the House thus far in terms of congressional maps.

It seems inconceivable that DeSantis could have made this sort of error, wading into a legislative fight he cannot control and may not win. But every passing hour, it appears that is the case – The Governor has chosen to engage in a battle which he could easily have sat out, and has done so without securing the support of key legislators in advance. For a pro like DeSantis, it appears an awfully amateurish mistake.

I reiterate in my 25 years around politics, I have never seen an elected official who can obtain, hold and use power as effectively as DeSantis has the last three years. The only thing that prepared me for a man of his abilities in this regard was reading about the likes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Daley, Robert Moses. Sam Rayburn and others, because nobody in my lifetime has ever demonstrated his ability with regards to pure power politics.

That’s why this potential mistake, wholly unforced if it turns out to be the error it appears it might be, could reveal another side of DeSantis. His megalomania and sense of entitlement, also off-the-charts by any standard has perhaps gotten the best of him. I have said repeatedly, I don’t see a Republican who can beat DeSantis for the 2024 GOP Presidential nomination and I don’t think the Democrats are a particularly viable national political party at the moment (but politics turns on a dime so that can change), so I fully expect DeSantis to be President in 2025. However scary a prospect that is for this nation, I believe he has the political gusto to pull it off.

But this misstep, after DeSantis had spared with former President Trump on the vaccine issue (for those not paying attention, Trump tried to draw DeSantis out to admit he had been boosted, DeSantis instead attacked Trump for lockdowns in a clear play for the GOP base)shows that perhaps, I have overestimated DeSantis’ abilities. This is the sort of mistake you don’t make as Governor, unless you’re bumbling and stumbling around and not paying attention to what the leading legislative voices in your own party think.

Or perhaps the Governor has another card up his sleeve? Redistricting is messy, complicated and long. As stated above, I was very involved in the process in 2002. I was not involved in 2012 or 2016 (except writing about it on this site), so have not dealt with the parameters of the Fair Districts Amendment which passed in 2010.

But based on my understanding of the law, DeSantis map is skirting legalities (the African-American district issue I will leave to others, but I believe the split of Duval County in the fashion it’s been split as well as the cross-bay proposed Kathy Castor district both violate the idea of compactness and maintaining communities of interest) and as we see is potentially not winning over support in the legislature.

At this moment, the DeSantis incursion into redistricting looks to be the first major political error of his tenure (note I said political, not policy error – he’s made plenty of those as our readers well know). It could prove a sign of things to come, meaning a less disciplined and more impulsive Governor.

One comment

  1. […] in unprecedented fashion, showing his hand early and risking a waste of political capital with a legislature that doesn’t seem particularly interested in his thoughts on the subject thus […]


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