DeSantis zings Crist as Democrat tries to predict incumbent Gov’s presidential future

by Jacob Fuller

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


Democratic Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, widely expected to lose to incumbent Ron DeSantis next month, had an interesting strategy in Monday night’s debate — focus first on what his Republican opponent might not do rather than what he has done.

In what will be the only debate between the two candidates, Crist made an early point of hammering the fact that DeSantis, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, might not finish out a second term in office. And, for a fleeting moment, it looked like Crist’s tactic might pay off.

Crist, apparently in violation of a pre-debate agreement between the candidates to not ask each other questions on stage, asked DeSantis if he would complete a second term in office.

“Why don’t you look in the eyes of the people of the state of Florida and say to them if you’re re-elected, you will serve a full four-year term as governor,” Crist said. “Yes or no?”

DeSantis, who at 44 has been the fastest rising star of the Republican Party, stood silently for a handful of seconds, which gave the viewer the impression that perhaps Crist, 66, had gotten the better of his young adversary.

Sensing an advantage, Crist pounced and asked again “Yes or no?”

The sitting governor again let the question hang and then inquired about his allotted time to the moderator.

Crist pressed the issue a third time, this time addressing the voters of Florida.

“It’s not a tough question,” Crist said. “It’s a fair question. He won’t tell ya.”

The challenger seems to have miscalculated the situation badly as DeSantis, far from being flustered, seems to have been playing a game of political rope-a-dope.

“I know that Charlie is interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden, but I just want to make things very, very clear: The only worn-out old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist,” DeSantis said.

This was, by any objective measure, the line of the night. Crist, in need of a counterpunch, replied, “You won’t even say if you want to be the governor of Florida after this election.”

While it’s true DeSantis has been coy on his presidential aspirations — there is a chance he opts to wait until 2028 to seek the White House given former President Donald Trump’s popularity on the right — he was not bashful about using the current president as an albatross to place around Crist’s neck.

“Charlie Crist has voted with Joe Biden 100% of the time,” DeSantis said

The debate was, to put it mildly, a case study in the differences between Republican and Democratic talking points and an exercise in finding virtually no common ground. The two candidates agreed that Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz should have received the death penalty, and little else.

Crist attempted to poke holes in DeSantis’s COVID-19 response and label the sitting governor as a divisive figure. DeSantis proudly played up his conservative bonafides and boasted of a free Florida weathering the pandemic.

The incumbent was particularly proud of his move to restrict transgender athletes’ access to girls sports and for having signed into law his well-known Parental Rights in Education bill.

In a move that might make it easier for DeSantis to draw comparisons between his challenger and the current president, Crist borrowed from the 2020 Biden playbook and attempted to paint himself as a great unifier facing an unrepentant bully in DeSantis.

“You think you know better than any physician or any doctor or any woman,” Crist said. “You need to lead by uniting people, not dividing them.”

The tough fact for Crist, though, is that DeSantis has been uniting people in general opposition to Democrats.

According to NBC News, DeSantis has a seven-point lead of Crist in some polls and exceeds Crist in popularity among Hispanic voters.