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DeSantis risks voter backlash in Florida with migrant flights

(The Hill) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (right) faces intense scrutiny in his home state over his controversial decision last week to fly dozens of migrants, mostly from Venezuela, to the elite resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

While the move was hailed by conservatives as a strong protest against the Biden administration’s approach to border security, it has sparked a wave of criticism from Democrats and members of Florida’s broad Hispanic community, a politically influential force in Sunshine State.

“With this move, this action, obviously he makes his base very happy,” said Adelys Ferro, executive director of the Venezuelan American Caucus. “But there are still a lot of more middle-class people and independent people who are very disgusted and reject all this.”

“We are Venezuelan Americans and we voted, and we will vote in November,” he added. “And we would never vote for someone to do this.”

Migrant flights from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard – and DeSantis’ promise of more – have sparked a lot of legal activity. A Texas sheriff said Monday that his office will investigate the legality of the flights, while a Florida state lawmaker is preparing to file a lawsuit seeking to block DeSantis from transporting more migrants from the southern border.

But whether the migrant flights – dubbed a political stunt by critics – will weigh on DeSantis, the 2024 presidential nominee facing re-election this year, remains an open question.

On the one hand, the move risks colliding with Latino voters, especially in South Florida, a vote-rich state with a large community of exiles fleeing Latin America’s oppressive government. The GOP has strengthened its position among Latinos in recent years, though strategists on both sides of the aisle said the gains were undetermined.

“I think we need to be careful about taking Hispanics for granted the same way Democrats take them for granted,” said one Republican strategist who has worked on the Florida campaign. “We are talking about voters who like Republican policies, but may not consider themselves Republicans. They are still open to listening to the other side.”

But migrant flight also carries the potential to endear DeSantis even more with conservatives ahead of the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

“This is a story that has put him at the forefront of the national conversation over the past few weeks,” said Fernand Amandi, a Miami-based pollster Democrat who helped former President Barack Obama win states in 2008 and 2012. “So from his point of view. , as long as he’s not prosecuted, I think he sees it as a good thing.”

And as far as his re-election bids go, DeSantis appears well positioned to beat his Democratic rival Charlie Crist, a former congressman and Republican governor of Florida. Not only do polls in that race regularly show DeSantis the lead, but he also has a steep financial advantage. DeSantis has raised more than $130 million for his re-election bid so far.

Steve Schale, the Democratic strategist who ran Obama’s campaign operations in Sunshine State, also noted that migrant flight is not the only controversial move that has paid off politically for DeSantis. Florida’s governor rose to national prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic for taking a laissez-faire approach to the outbreak despite warnings from public health officials.

“He made a bet on COVID and it paid off,” said Schale. “In the eyes of the public, it was a successful victory. The lesson here is: He can lean on these divisive issues and he doesn’t pay a penalty for it.”

Schale said DeSantis and his campaign had bet that support from the GOP’s conservative base would be enough for him to secure a second term in November and that there was little actual political risk of potentially turning off voters who could be persuaded.

“The people on my side don’t always give him the credit he deserves,” said Schale. “They don’t think they need to win persuasive voters to win re-election. They make the calculus that they are safe in this space.”

Ana Navarro, a longtime GOP strategist who co-hosted ABC’s “The View,” agrees with Schale’s assessment that DeSantis is only concerned about attracting the most conservative voters — and that includes Republican voters fleeing repressive foreign governments themselves.

“It looks like the game plan is to raise his national profile and get out as much of his base as possible and not worry too much about attracting those in the middle,” said Navarro, who is based in Miami. “Without a doubt, most of his base loves what he’s doing, unfortunately, including other Florida residents who came to this state to escape oppression, but seem to have forgotten. I really don’t get it.”

A poll from Morning Consult released on Wednesday found that while voters are divided about the appropriateness of sending migrants to more liberal parts of the country, the tactic is still popular with Republicans. Sixty-six percent of GOP voters said it was appropriate, while only 19 percent said it was inappropriate.

That doesn’t mean that there can’t be consequences for DeSantis. In addition to a criminal investigation conducted by Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar in Texas, several migrants who were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard last week filed a class-action lawsuit in Massachusetts on Tuesday, arguing that DeSantis and other state officials were involved in a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme.” “

The migrants seek redress that was not specified in the case.

DeSantis isn’t the only Republican governor to send migrants from the U.S. southern border and into more Democratic-leaning parts of the country. Texas Governor Greg Abbott (right), who is also running for re-election, has been doing so for months, as has Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (right).

But what makes DeSantis’ efforts even more controversial is the fact that none of the 48 migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard have ever set foot in Florida. What’s more, migrants are reportedly misled about their destination.

DeSantis has defended the move, arguing that illegal immigration is not the only problem border countries have to deal with. Officials in her government have also argued that the migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard were “homeless, hungry, sleeping outside in the parking lot” before making the trip, seeking to put a humanitarian spin on the effort.

However, critics of DeSantis say there is no moral ambiguity in what the governor does. Ferro, executive director of the Venezuelan American Caucus, accused DeSantis of playing politics with a humanitarian crisis, saying that “people – even many Republicans – feel ashamed and disgusted.”

Amandi, a poll Democrat, also said the Republicans he spoke to in the state were unhappy.

“In their hearts, they knew this was going to have an impact,” he said.

Source : www.newsnationnow.com


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