The only thing Florida Democrats want to know this morning is if charlie christ can beat Ron DeSantis.
If you believe the polls, the easy answer is “no”. I’m not saying DeSantis wouldn’t lose his vote if he walked out of the state capitol and shot someone, but if that happened Republicans would find a way to blame Joe Biden.
DeSantis backers are confident, even arrogant, about the outcome. And there’s a lot of justification for that. The Governor has money to spend, a resume his supporters love, and his “Free State of Florida” schtick is a marketing genius.
Given this, is it even reasonable to suggest that Crist has a path to victory, even if it’s a rocky, narrow path on the edge of a high mountain?
It depends on his ability to assemble the groups targeted by DeSantis over the past four years. Republicans see DeSantis as a doer, but others see a tyrant. There may be more to this last camp than the obedient Governor’s flock realizes.
In other words: the Democrats did not like Rick Scott but weren’t excited enough to beat him. But they hate DeSantis, and that kind of anger can be motivating.
Start with the teachers.
Yes, he gave them raises, but he also gave them ultimatums on what they can say in class — or, more importantly, what they can’t say.
On one side of the governor’s mouth, he spoke out at the height of the pandemic about the importance of in-person teaching even if it put teachers’ health at risk. His tirade about “woke” teachers “indoctrinating” students came out the other side of his mouth.
DeSantis also championed a law that makes it easy for parents to sue teachers and school districts if their little darlings hear something in class they don’t like.
Thousands of Florida teachers have decided to follow a new career path rather than put up with the noise. This is a key constituency for Crist.
Crist also needs major help from black voters. From the infamous “monkey it up” quote DeSantis said about Andrew Gillum to the unnecessary and racially-tinged “Riot Bill,” the governor repeatedly marginalized black people.
He lobbied for voting restrictions — er, security measures — that appeared to target minority communities. And Suzanne Lopezhis hand-picked replacement for the suspended Hillsborough County prosecutor Andre Warrenwants to revive Tampa’s racist “Biking While Black” lawsuits.
“They have decided to declare war on our community again,” Connie Burtonlongtime civil rights activist from Tampa, said Creative hobbies in Tampa Bay.
He pushed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law and used transgender students as campaign material.
And, of course, DeSantis went all-in on a law that severely restricts abortion rights. He’s playing with fire on that one.
A Florida Policy Survey last month showed that 57% of Floridians disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
There’s also widespread belief that DeSantis will run for president in 2024. Is he using the top office in Florida as a staging area for bigger ambitions? This is a problem that Crist can exploit.
Even with all of this, a lot must be going well for Crist. More importantly, things have to go wrong for DeSantis.
Crist’s game plan was to build his campaign from scratch. He spent a lot of time in areas considered DeSantis strongholds. He argued that DeSantis is an autocrat and a divider.
It worked well enough to overwhelmingly convince Democratic primary voters that he is their best shot at beating DeSantis. Crist says he can do just that.
Now he has to prove it.