Charlie Crist Officially Running In The Anyone But Ron DeSantis For Florida Governor Race
Those of you reading this probably agree that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a coronavirus-spreading disaster and shouldn't serve a second term. But which Democrat has the best chance at unseating DeSantis, who the polls convinced us was going to lose decisively in 2018? Let's take a look at the likely candidates.
Democratic House Rep. Charlie Crist announced today that he's running for governor in 2022. He's got the experience, as he was governor from 2007 to 2011 and specialized in not embarrassing the state.
Florida should be a place where hard work is rewarded, justice is equal, and opportunity is right in front of you.… https://t.co/3rgPypqAnY— Charlie Crist (@Charlie Crist)1620130660.0
His campaign launch ad is deliciously salty: Floridians fondly recall when they had a governor worth a damn.
I remember a governor who put the people first, a governor who gave a damn about the environment, who expanded voting rights and defended civil rights, stood up for women's rights, and put more money in the classroom.
I remember a governor whose grandfather came here without a penny his pocket with much desire to prosper.
I remember when he had a governor who knew his job was to look out for our jobs.
Crist then appears and declares that he remembers this governor, as well, because “that
little girl governor was me!"
This ad plays like a nostalgic call for Democratic leadership after a decade of Republican mismanagement, but while we're all remembering things, we should probably point out that Crist was a Republican himself during his term as governor. He endorsed the late Senator John McCain in 2008. He was fairly popular back then, with 60 percent approval. Senator Marco Rubio, if you believe anything that comes out of his mouth, claimed he voted for Crist in 2006.
But Crist was either too moderate a Republican (a charge conservatives often lobbed at McCain) or he was too friendly with President Kenyan Socialist. Crist was photographed hugging the new commander in chief, Barack Obama, in February of 2009, and soon everything went to shit for him. Republicans appreciated the gesture as much as House Rep. Liz Cheney's polite fist bump with President Joe Biden. (The pandemic did have one upside for Biden, because it required him to pull back on all the PDA. As a notoriously non-touchy person, I seriously think this helped improve my opinion of Biden.)
Chris Cillizza, who's so consistently wrong he couldn't even get a job as a local weatherman, discounted Crist's claim that racial resentment of Obama drove him out of the party. Cillizza argued in a 2014 article that Crist happily ran for Senate in 2010 as a Republican before Marco Rubio kicked his ass in the primary, but that was entirely because Little Marco slammed Crist for his support of the 2009 stimulus and painted him as a phony Republican who put liberal judges on the bench.
CILLIZZA: But, it's hard to imagine that "The Hug" became such a big deal among Florida Republicans solely because of the fact Crist was hugging an African American man. The case Rubio made against Crist's conservative bona fides went well beyond "The Hug".
This willful naïveté is especially galling after the complete MAGAfication of the GOP. The media was obsessed with believing there was more driving the Tea Party movement than racial animus against Obama. But Crist was never a Manchurian Moderate. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair John Cornyn endorsed Crist in 2009, but Tea Party-backed candidates rode to primary wins by attacking anyone who tried to cooperate with Obama.
When it was clear by that Rubio would easily win the primary, Crist dropped out and ran as an independent, which led to this happening:
Sorry, Charlie, but I'm petty AF and will never forgive your failure to math helping gift the Senate with the Rubio-Bot 9000.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who's actually won statewide with a “D" in front of her name, is expected to enter the governor's race. Polls show her roughly tied with DeSantis, and while she performs better with independents than the governor, she's not doing as well with Democrats as DeSantis is with the MAGA base.
I like Fried, especially after she refused DeSantis's order to lower the flag in honor of dead racist Rush Limbaugh, but I looove Val Demings. (It's the difference between my Skechers and my Prada backpack.) The Florida congresswoman who publicly disemboweled Jim Jordan a couple weeks ago is considering bringing the ruckus to DeSantis or Rubio.
Demings's district is solidly Democratic enough that I don't think we could Coakley up the seat. Crist represents the 13th District, which is too swingy to risk: Obama carried it by just one point in 2012. Clinton and Biden's wins were slightly better but still narrow.
No, Crist should stay put. Demings or Fried can handle this.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."