IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

DeSantis’ main 2024 argument is melting away in the courtroom

He says GOP victories in Florida show he knows how to win. But the voting map he pushed as governor is being challenged — along with his argument for being his party’s presidential nominee.


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ main argument to voters in the GOP presidential primary centers on electability. In this mythology, DeSantis has propped himself up as a winner, in comparison with former President Donald Trump.

In some conservatives’ eyes, DeSantis’ re-election victory last fall, and Florida Republicans’ role in winning back the U.S. House of Representatives for the GOP, made the governor a shining star in an otherwise disappointing election season.  

“We are not getting a mulligan on the 2024 election,” DeSantis said at Wednesday’s GOP primary debate. “Republicans have lost three straight elections in a row. We were supposed to have a red wave with inflation at 9%. It crashed and burned — not in Florida, it didn’t. We delivered it in Florida.”

But reality is starting to set in. And the facade is beginning to melt away. Or, better put, courts are melting it away.

But reality is starting to set in. And the facade is beginning to melt away. Or, better put, courts are melting it away. 

In early September, a Florida judge ruled that the state’s gerrymandered district map — which DeSantis proposed, signed into law and then used in 2022 over the objection of voting rights activists — illegally harmed Black voters. In other words, a redistricting map that DeSantis himself imposed on Florida’s Legislature, and which helped the Republican Party regain control of the House, was deemed illegal and in need of a redraw. The DeSantis administration is appealing the ruling.

Republicans have openly acknowledged that DeSantis’ strong-arming helped them retake the House. But now they’re facing the prospect of those gains being washed away next year. And DeSantis’ pull in the Republican Party could go away as well.  

As NBC News recently reported:

The new map, which was drawn last year, erased a congressional seat for a district where 46% of voting-age residents were Black. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat, represented the district and promptly lost re-election in the newly drawn seat.

The plan also increased the number of GOP seats in Florida’s 28-member delegation.

Along with the state court challenge, Florida’s congressional map is also facing a federal lawsuit. That trial, initiated by voters and civil rights groups, kicked off this week. And as Ashley Cleaves wrote for Democracy Docket, “this federal trial may offer another path to resurrect” a district like the erased one, in which Black voters in North Florida have a chance to elect a lawmaker of their choosing. 

The potential unrigging of Florida’s congressional map is just one of several signs that DeSantis’ stranglehold over Florida politics could be weakening. That’s why these court cases loom large over DeSantis’ political career, in my view. Losing them could be a death knell for his Florida clout, as it would prove he’s not as big a boon for the GOP’s long-term electoral hopes as he thinks.