These guys: Why Walz loses in a head to head with DeSantis

A new player has entered the game of the Democratic Party’s search for an alternative to President Biden for 2024’s presidential election: none other than our own Governor, Tim Walz:

Minnesotans might find their eyebrows shooting off the tops of their heads as they read this article. We are told that Gov. Walz: “reacted with a veteran NCO’s doggedness after Minnesota cops killed George Floyd in May 2020.” He did not, in fact, do any such thing. As we wrote in Summer 2020, regarding the abandonment of the Third precinct in Minneapolis:

“I will assume responsibility,” Walz admitted the next day. “I, if the issue was the state should’ve moved faster, yeah, that is on me.”

You may applaud such candor, but we must also recognize it as an admission of abject failure in dealing with one of the two major challenges in his first term as Minnesota’s governor. Minnesotans will never forget the sight of Walz, among other leaders, refusing to deploy the National Guard because he was scared of his party’s activist base and being reduced to going on TV begging rioters to go home and stop burning down the Twin Cities.

The article lists as Walz’ achievements recent legislation such as abortion without restrictions up to the moment of birth, a ‘transgender refuge’ bill, a bill making 55,000 felons eligible to vote, and another bill allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. Whatever one thinks of these measures, they do absolutely nothing whatsoever to tackle major issues such as crime and the economy.

Walz vs DeSantis

In policy terms, Walz might well be the ‘anti-DeSantis’ and this is a comparison Walz himself has invited. The trouble is that Americans seem to prefer what Florida governor Ron DeSantis is selling.

Census Bureau data show that since the two men took office in January 2019, 43,531 Minnesotans have, on net, fled Walz’ Minnesota to live elsewhere in the United States. As Figure 1 shows, DeSantis’ Florida, by contrast, has attracted a staggering 853,720 residents from elsewhere in the United States (The ‘It’s the Weather’ crowd might like to note that both Wisconsin and South Dakota have seen net inflows over this period).

Figure 1: Net domestic migration, 2019-2022

Source: Census Bureau

Even more galling for the ‘Draft Walz’ movement is that even Minnesotans seem to prefer what DeSantis has to offer. Internal Revenue Service data show where Americans have moved from and to. As Figure 2 shows, for 2019-2020 — the only year of their two tenures for which we have data so far — Walz’ Minnesota lost, on net, 3,921 residents to DeSantis’ Florida.

Figure 2: Net domestic migration in and out of Minnesota, 2019-2020

Source: Internal Revenue Service

If Americans, and Minnesotans and Floridians specifically, prefer DeSantis’ government to Walz’ when they vote with their feet, they also seem to feel the same way when they vote with their vote.

As Figure 3 shows, DeSantis saw his vote share increase by 9.8 percentage points between the gubernatorial election of 2018 and that of 2022 while Walz saw his fall by 1.5 percentage points. As Figure 4 shows, if we look at the number of votes cast for each candidate, DeSantis saw an increase of 13.2% between the gubernatorial election of 2018 and that of 2022 while Walz saw a fall of 5.8% — that much vaunted ‘trifecta’ rests on some rather shaky electoral foundations.

Figure 3: Percentage point change in vote share, 2018 to 2022

Figure 4: Change in total votes received, 2018 to 2022

The fact that the election results, like the migration numbers, favor DeSantis over Walz ought not be surprising given the relative economic performance of DeSantis’ Florida and Walz’ Minnesota.

As Figure 5 shows, between 2018 and 2021, real Gross Domestic Product grew by 9.3% in De Santis’ Florida compared to 2.8% in Walz’ Minnesota. As Figure 6 shows, total employment rose in DeSantis’ Florida by 5.3% between 2018 to 2021 while it fell in Walz’ Minnesota by 2.2%.

Figure 5: Real Gross Domestic Product growth, 2018 to 2021

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Figure 6: Total employment growth, 2018 to 2021

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

A Walz vs. DeSantis contest in 2024 would offer a very clear choice between two governing philosophies. The migration and electoral numbers indicate how that might go. The economic numbers might tell you why.