Something happened last night that never happened before. The Sarasota Republican Club on Florida’s politically red coast sold-out a dinner with Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan, who is a regular speaker who has never sold out before. In fact, no Club event had ever sold out. The venue maxxed out at 120 guests — the most it could hold — and another 20-30 or more were turned away.
Sarasota is in the heart of Florida’s red Gulf Coast, but the overflowing dinner was anecdotal evidence of what is likely happening in much of the country. Impeachment is driving GOP enthusiasm to new levels.
GOP enthusiasm for the reelection of President Trump is sky-high. Part of it is Trump’s performance on conservative policies and willingness to punch back — something Republicans have been longing for since Reagan. But a substantial part is the utter insanity and blatant corruption being displayed not just by Democrats but by the entire left establishment from the media to the permanent bureaucracy. The swamp could not be revealed to be more swampier and people are seeing it who did not before.
This can be revealed in some numbers.
In Florida, the biggest battleground state, GOP voter registration has narrowed the Democratic lead to its smallest amount since 1972 — the first year such solid numbers were kept. Most likely, it is the closest since Reconstruction. The latest numbers from the Florida Division of Elections shows that there are 4.986 million registered Democrats in Florida, and 4.741 million registered Republicans, which is an ever narrowing gap. Democrats admit that the closing gap is of great concern because Republicans turn out at the polls in higher percentages than Democrats or independents.
Other states where Republicans are gaining on Democrats in voter registration include the large normally Democratic state of Pennsylvania, along with Kentucky and Louisiana, according to Governing.com. Nationwide, both major parties are seeing declines as independents continue to increase. But the Democratic decline is much sharper at 0.8 of a percentage point compared to Republicans’ 0.2 percent decline.
In fact, in Ohio, the next largest swing state, The Wall Street Journal reports that Democrat strategists are expecting to write the state off as no longer competitive. Democrats will be looking to flip back Michigan and Wisconsin.
Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist who led Obama’s 2008 Florida campaign, told the Miami Herald that party registration has become one of the best indicators of which candidate will win, particularly as the country becomes more polarized. Schale told the newspaper that if Democrats want to win, they need to significantly outnumber Republicans. And that is not happening.
“If more of them vote than us, and we have less of us, then we’re always going to be threading a needle,” he said.
Independents muddy this water some as that particular voting block, known as No Party Affiliation in Florida, now stands at 3.638 million — more than twice what it was in 2000. But independents broke for Florida Republicans at high rates in the 2018 election, which was a blue wave election nationally. Polls suggest that the antics of Democrats from AOC to impeachment to Sen. Elizabeth Warren are turning off more independents than Trump’s antics.
So what appears to be happening in these numbers is a mix of increasing Republican enthusiasm coupled with increasing numbers of people leaving the Democratic Party — for reasons that are probably obvious to our readers.
But it’s about a lot more than numbers. Enthusiasm is huge. Republicans had it in 2016 and Democrats had it in 2018. And it feels like Republicans have a lot more right now.
In the microcosm, that showed at the dinner speech last night for local Congressman Buchanan, who is targeted every year by Democrats and is again this year. There were a lot of first-time attendees, which goes straight to the enthusiasm metric.
This has been a trend at the Club which, in full disclosure, I am president of. Just this year, though, the dinners are showing a sharp uptick in attendance — and this is not even an election year yet. Seeing so many new faces suggests a broadening of GOP interest and support.
One last metric for the enthusiasm scale: Money. Trump and the GOP are raking in record amounts.
Politico reported that Trump and the Republican National Coalition have raised more than $300 million towards 2020. The Trump 2020 alone has $158 million cash on hand — more than any other sitting president at this point in the campaign cycle. Further, in just the past quarter, the Trump campaign has identified more than 300,000 new donors.
As long as the relentless attacks continue on President Trump by the Democrat Media establishment, clearly working in tandem with Democrat leaders in Congress — and it’s almost inconceivable to think they will not with impeachment as just the latest example — Republicans and Trump will continue getting stronger heading into 2020.
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