The 2016 election may only be just over, but presidential candidates are already looking toward 2020’s presidential election on both sides of the aisle. Anxious Democrats look forward to 2020 to defeat President Trump and take back the White House, while some anti-Trump Republicans see an opportunity to unseat him once and for all in the primaries. On either side, Florida has a number of favorite sons and daughters braced to defeat Donald Trump.
Bill Nelson is one of the two current Senators of Florida and has, unlike many Florida Democrats, multiple and sizable statewide wins on his record, and boasts good approval rates and very low disapproval rates for his position. Nelson also seems confident in his ability to beat any Republican challenger to his seat in two years, including Governor Rick Scott. Nelson reportedly made Hillary Clinton’s VP shortlist this year as well. If Florida gets a Democratic Governor in the 2018 election, that would eliminate the fear of an appointed Republican in his place. Nelson’s successful outreach to traditionally Republican voters in Northern Florida, with nearly a third of Republicans in Florida supporting him, could also be seen as an asset in the battle for white working class men who voted for Trump. Nelson’s record is decidedly more moderate on key fiscal issues than most other candidates being considered though, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Kamala Harris, and his pro free-trade stance could deter former supporters of Bernie Sanders.
The one term Representative from FL-2 seems like an odd choice for President; however she is the daughter of popular former Governor, Senator and presidential candidate Bob Graham, who still holds sway in many areas of Florida. Graham has also been touted by many to run for Governor, including Vice President Joe Biden, and recently considered it herself. In a poll by the Gravis polling agency, Graham received large leads against every potential Republican candidate. In her campaign for Representative, Graham won over some of the most conservative areas of Florida and, like Senator Nelson, could be seen as an asset in winning over voters lost to Trump in 2016. However, Graham could face a crowded primary in 2018 with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and bombastic attorney John Morgan both mulling runs. Overall Graham lands firmly on the right-wing-leaning portion of the Democratic caucus in the House, and may have problems reaching out to progressives in the party. Her more populist policies could help balance that out.
It is no secret that Senator Marco Rubio aspires to be President of the United States one day. Despite this, he failed miserably in the primaries this year, winning only the state of Minnesota and a few U.S. territories. He lost every county in Florida except Miami-Dade. However, he made a big comeback in the Senate election in November, outperforming Trump by a large margin and crushing Democrat Patrick Murphy. This rebound could give him hope that a rematch against Trump in 2020 could end up much better than last time. Rubio said that he would remain in the Senate for the rest of his term “God willing.” He has walked back on similar promises before though, most notably on whether to run for his Senate seat again. His stalwart support for Trump after the election was notable, possibly even helping to carry the state for Trump, and a second primary run could be seen as hypocrisy and betrayal by Rubio. Perhaps Rubio’s opinion on Trump could change now that he does not have to worry about his Senate seat.
In one of the weirdest twists that could happen, actor and former wrestler Dwayne Johnson might also decide to run. He says that he is not ruling out any run for public office, and he was courted by anti-Trump Republicans in 2016 to run as an independent, akin to Evan McMullin’s bid for the presidency this year. Johnson is a registered Republican, and in 2000 spoke at the RNC (and DNC), but is not exactly a tea party firebrand. Despite conservative derision at his speaking role at the RNC in 2000, he has remained very quiet on his exact politics, but an educated guess would land him somewhere around a moderate Florida Republican, such as Carlos Curbelo or Jeb Bush. It is unclear, however, whether the Republican base would be interested in considering him at all, given their support of Donald Trump and far right-wing policies this past year.