Donald Trump spent the days immediately before the midterms teasing and threatening his biggest Republican rival, Florida governor Ron DeSantis. At a rally in Philadelphia, he coined the nickname Ron DeSanctimonious. Then, on the night before the election, flying in his 757 from Ohio to Florida, he said that he thought a DeSantis presidential run would be a “mistake,” that “the base would not like it” and that “if he did run, I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering. I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his...

Donald Trump spent the days immediately before the midterms teasing and threatening his biggest Republican rival, Florida governor Ron DeSantis. At a rally in Philadelphia, he coined the nickname Ron DeSanctimonious. Then, on the night before the election, flying in his 757 from Ohio to Florida, he said that he thought a DeSantis presidential run would be a “mistake,” that “the base would not like it” and that “if he did run, I will tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering. I know more about him than anybody other than perhaps his wife, who is really running his campaign.”

DeSantis said nothing. Instead, he let the voters do the talking. And their voice was heard very clearly last night. The Florida governor secured a stunning victory: with more than 95 percent of the votes counted, he has won reelection by more than 1.5 million votes. In the race four years ago, he won by just 30,000 votes.

But the early good news for Republicans failed to materialize across the rest of the country. The red wave looks like it will be more of a ripple, with control of both the House and the Senate still undecided on Wednesday morning. Handed an old and unpopular Democratic president and a favorable environment on most of the big issues, Republicans failed to meet the high expectations they set for themselves. Several factors explain this underperformance, but a big one is Donald Trump. If it wasn’t already obvious, the former president is an albatross around the neck of the Republican Party. He had the run of the primary and the pick of the candidates, but his slate of Republicans look like they have failed to deliver.

Was the MAGA-ish Don Bolduc really the candidate best suited to deliver a Republican victory in New Hampshire? Did the combination of unpopular carpetbagger Mehmet Oz and nutso stop-the-steal hardliner Doug Mastriano really maximize the party’s chances in Pennsylvania? Is gratuitously insulting John McCain and asking that his supporters leave your campaign events, as Kari Lake did, a sensible strategy for a Republican in Arizona? And does the most prominent Republican in the country spending the days leading up to the midterms insulting other Republicans help or harm candidates’ prospects in that vote?

The answers to all these questions are obvious. And the lesson, to anyone who wants to hear it, is clear.

Florida looks set to be the exception in this election. And that Florida exceptionalism will be impossible for Republicans considering their 2024 options to ignore. Prior to the election, Trump called for a “humiliating rebuke” of Biden, but it is Trump himself who will be licking his wounds this morning. It is hard to imagine how last night could have gone much worse for the former president. Now he’s left wondering what to do on November 15. His aides had teased the date for the announcement of his presidential bid, presumably expecting to take credit for the red wave that had swept the country. Now, with Republicans more interested in finger pointing, will he dare announce so soon?

The important difference between Trump and DeSantis is less ideological and more dispositional. As my colleague Ben Domenech writes this morning, “The nation clearly wants a more populist conservative agenda, that’s not wrong — Ron DeSantis and a number of under candidates who won easily exemplify this. But they also want something else: a sense of seriousness and normalcy, not chaos. The Trumpian candidates for the Senate were often more chaotic than serious and sensible.”

Trump and his acolytes look more and more like an unserious distraction. DeSantis, meanwhile, seems laser-focused on the future. “I have only begun to fight,” he said in a victory speech Tuesday night, delivered with a national audience in mind. “Two more years,” chanted his supporters. DeSantis smiled. “DeFuture,” splashed the late edition of today’s New York Post. It certainly feels that way.