Florida Democratic party has its best election night in recent history

Smith, who will soon be ending his stint as party chair, says the Florida Democratic Party needs to have people working on college campuses well in advance of the 2014 election. "We cannot let it walk away," he says.

Smith said the Democrats have an obvious message (which they've had for years and failed to exploit, in particular after their success in 2008). "[Republicans] now been in control of the governorship, the cabinet, the House and the Senate. At times they've been veto-proof. They've controlled every lever of government. And ask yourself how our universities have done, how are public schools have done. How we've taken care of the quality of life in our state. And compare where we were when they took over and where are now....we've got the right arguments. We just have to now keep the machinery in place and keep doing what we're doing, and not just walk away and say 'we had a great night' and it'll automatically come back to us next time. It won't."

Smith said the state party will always be at a financial disadvantage, but that can be overcome by a more robust ground-game, the likes of which were demonstrated by the Obama for America organization in both 2008 and 2012.

Party officials say they gained a net of five seats in the House and two in the State Senate, all while being outspent in some races by a 4:1 margin.

Smith also considered the retention of the three Supreme Court justices won the ballot to be a win for the Democrats, since, unlike the Republican Party of Florida, they never intervened in that contest. "I never believed those races were political campaigns, they were designed to be anything but that."

Although Romney staffers dismissed the numbers of Democrats voting absentee and in early voting as simply "cannibalizing" their own voters. Smith said that was obviously not the case, and the tremendous effort by OFA and state Democrats to vote before November 6 made a huge difference.

  • Florida Democratic party chair Rod Smith

Two years ago Florida Democrats were in utter despair. Republicans had just swept the governor's race and all the cabinet positions, elected Marco Rubio to the the U.S. Senate, and upped their already dominant numbers in the state legislature.

But as low as the Dems were in 2010, there was an equal high among party members on Wednesday, just hours after the state (probably) went for Barack Obama for the second straight election, and their own man (Bill Nelson) was re-elected to the Senate. Democrats also added numbers to both their state congressional and legislative ranks.

The big question now facing Florida Democrats is: Can the party replicate this effort two years from now, when Governor Rick Scott will face re-election in an off-year race — exactly the type of race during which Democratic voter enthusiasm traditionally falls well below the level of a presidential election?

Florida Democratic Party Chair Rod Smith says he thinks the party can pull off an Obama-like coalition — even without Barack Obama actually being on the ballot.

"We've got a tremendous opportunity now to take the next step," Smith said. "We've got to put together a ticket that wins state-wide," Smith says. The coalition would likely consist of women, blacks, Latinos and the young.

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