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Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is planning to announce a campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in early June, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Murphy is a proven fundraiser. Jumping in now would give her an early start to build her case for the Democratic nomination and potentially force Rubio and allied GOP groups to spend heavily to retain a seat in a state that’s trending Republican.

  • President Trump won Florida by more than 3 percentage points in 2020, up from a narrow one-point margin in 2016. He did so, in part, by accusing Democrats of being soft on socialism.
  • Murphy, who fled Communist Vietnam as a child, calls herself a “proud capitalist” and has warned Democrats about embracing socialism. She knocked off a longtime GOP House incumbent in 2016 at age 38.
  • Murphy has been on a “listening tour” across the state as she explains her life journey.
  • “Rep. Murphy has not made a decision on whether to run for the U.S. Senate,” said Lauren Calmet, a campaign spokesperson.

Between the lines: With Murphy working to appeal to Florida voters statewide, she may be less inclined to support President Biden’s proposed tax increases on corporations and capital gains — making House passage more difficult.

  • Biden won her Orlando-area district by about 10 points in 2020, and while the lines may be redrawn this year through congressional redistricting, the general area leans Democratic.

The big picture: Eighteen months before the election, both parties are looking for candidates who can appeal to swing voters in an unknown campaign climate.

  • The atmospherics for the midterm races will hang on everything from Biden’s approval ratings to the level of Donald Trump’s determination to re-litigate the 2020 presidential election.
  • While the Senate is tied at 50-50, Republicans are defending more seats than Democrats, giving Democrats an opportunity to increase their majority — a rarity for the party controlling the presidency at the midterms.
  • In the House, the Democrat's five-seat margin could be more difficult to maintain, especially with redistricting giving Republican-leaning states additional seats.
  • An Axios chart visualizes the dynamic.

Florida will be center stage in 2022 and a petri dish of presidential ambitions.

  • Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is also up for reelection, with Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist already announcing a challenge and Rep. Val Demings mulling her own.
  • While Rubio ran for president in 2016, DeSantis could make his own bid for the White House in 2024, assuming he wins reelection.
  • Florida Sen. Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, also has hinted at presidential aspirations.

The bottom line: In 2022, Florida may be less of a battleground and more of a proving ground for Democratic strategies about how to win Trump supporters.

Go deeper

Charted: Dem advantage

Expand chart
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Bigger population jumps than expected in major cities. More diversity. Booming suburbs. Dwindling rural areas. All may make it harder — but not impossible — for Republicans to manipulate district lines to strengthen their power in states including Texas and Georgia, experts say.

Why it matters: The first results of the 2020 census are a balm for Democrats anxious about Republican gerrymandering efforts.

Between the lines: Some of the fastest-growing counties in the last decade are near blue cities in red states — like Hays and Comal counties in Texas and Bryan County, Georgia.

  • Meanwhile, almost all of the shrinking counties are moving toward Republicans, Claire Low, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee's targeting and analytics director, told Axios.
  • "If the maps are fair, Democrats will gain seats," NDRC president Kelly Burton told Axios.
  • The trends in Texas, where Republicans control redistricting, “basically makes the gerrymanders uglier and more complex," Texas Civil Rights Project staff attorney Joaquin Gonzalez told Axios.

What we're watching: Of note is just how much growth there's been in major cities like New York City and Chicago — both situated in states where Democrats control redistricting.

  • "It's better for Democrats that there are more seats going to the cities and that they can dilute the power of rural Republican areas in those states more easily," Cook Political Report's David Wasserman told Axios.
  • New York state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D), who represents western Queens, said the results make it likelier that redder, upstate areas — not blue New York City — lose a seat. He credited high population counts to city campaigns to get people to fill out the census — also protecting the state against losing more House seats.

So far, fears of a significant undercount of the Hispanic population due to the Trump administration's efforts to not count undocumented immigrants haven't played out in the data, Wasserman said.

  • That's another good sign for Democrats, who tend to be favored by Latino voters.

What's next: The Austin area has grown substantially over the decade — and Wasserman and Low say Texas Republicans may try to concentrate that population into already blue districts to keep surrounding GOP seats as red as possible.

Two hot House races

Lauren Underwood (left) and Lucy McBath. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call (left), Alex Edelman/Pool/Getty Images

Democrats are prioritizing two competitive House seats held by Black women in their party — Reps. Lauren Underwood in Illinois and Lucy McBath in Georgia — as new census data shows how demographic shifts are shaping the midterms.

Why it matters: Each of these swing districts covers a majority white area that Republicans are eager to take back. Elections experts predict both districts could change dramatically — but in different ways — because of the 2020 count.

Behind Ron DeSantis' Fox News blitz

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference earlier this month in Hialeah. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

From the 2020 election through February, Fox News asked Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to appear on its airwaves nearly once a day and willingly broadcast staged events — set up by DeSantis' team — that made the governor look good.

Driving the news: That's according to the Tampa Bay Times' Steve Contorno, who got four months of emails between the network and DeSantis’ office through a records request.