Ron DeSantis Wins Against Charlie Crist: Projection

Ron DeSantis Wins Against Charlie Crist: Projection

Republican Ron DeSantis coasted to a second term as governor of Florida Tuesday night, easily besting Democrat Charlie Crist in a rout that will likely amplify growing talk about a 2024 White House run.

DeSantis, 44, a former congressman and U.S. Navy veteran of the war in Iraq, never trailed in polls, holding a lead that reached double digits in early October following his acclaimed handling of Hurricane Ian and its aftermath. DeSantis, who in his first term became one of the nation’s most high-profile governors, was secure enough in the Sunshine State and in demand enough in others that he spent much of the weeks leading up to the election campaigning for fellow Republicans around the nation.

“I can come up with probably 20 reasons why DeSantis wins,” Brad Coker, CEO and managing director of the Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy firm, told The Tampa Bay Times last month.

The large victory margin was affirmation for DeSantis’ bareknuckle style following a first-term win over Andrew Gillum four years ago by the narrowest of margins. DeSantis, who famously kept his state’s economy and public schools open while others closed during the COVID pandemic, sparred frequently with the media, both directly and through his no-holds-barred media team. His national stature was further elevated when he brought attention to President Joe Biden’s porous border policies by flying illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, making the island elites deal first-hand with a problem plaguing Florida and other states.

The Yale and Harvard Law-educated governor’s leadership was on full display as Hurricane Ian bore down on Florida’s Gulf Coast in the final days of September. DeSantis instructed citizens to hunker down and warned would-be looters they would be dealt with harshly. When the storm passed, the nation was stunned to see power quickly restored and emergency road and bridge repairs for Pine Island completed in less than three days. A frequently antagonistic media was unable to find any substantive basis for criticizing his handling of the devastating storm.

An October 1 CNN article noted DeSantis’ “painstaking command of rescue and recovery logistics” in the wake of Ian and quoted veteran Democratic strategist Steve Schale offering grudging praise.

“He’s doing what he’s supposed to do which is focus on being governor,” Schale said. “And he’s saying and doing all the right things.”

In addition to handling the COVID pandemic and Hurricane Ian with a no-nonsense style that made him a darling of conservatives around the country, DeSantis waded unapologetically into cultural issues. He banned sanctuary cities, resisted mask mandates, opposed the teaching of Critical Race Theory in public schools, and consistently battled the transgressive policies of the Left.

DeSantis, who has generally been a supporter of former President Trump even as his growing popularity seemed to grate on the 45th commander-in-chief and Florida resident, has been guarded about his future plans. But his easy victory in a key state, popularity with Hispanic voters, and growing national stature could make for interesting twists and turns over the next two years.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted in late October asked voters how much influence various famous Republicans should have on the future direction of the Republican Party. Some 72% of respondents named DeSantis as someone they would like to have a “great deal or good amount” of influence over the future direction of the party. Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finished second and third, with 64% and 63%, respectively.

Crist, who was a Republican until 2010, served as state attorney general under former Governor Jeb Bush, then became governor from 2007-2011. While still serving as governor, he ran for Senate in 2010, lost the primary to Marco Rubio, and became an Independent to stay in the race. In 2012, he switched to the Democratic Party, lost a bid for governor and then was elected to the House of Representatives in 2016.

Despite his extensive, if mixed, experience in campaigning for public office, Crist caused head-scratching throughout his campaign against DeSantis. He recently called for wearing masks on planes again, and made several statements that were not likely vetted by advisers.

“Those who support the governor should stay with him and vote for him, and I don’t want your vote,” he said in August. “If you have that hate in your heart, keep it there!”

In September, after saying, “This is an election about decency,” Crist called DeSantis “DeSatan” while comparing his last name to Jesus Christ.

The race was essentially conceded by Democrats two weeks before the election. A report from Politico noted that the Democratic Governors Association spent just $685,000 this election cycle as opposed to the $14 million it gave to Florida in the past two gubernatorial contests. Democrats had collectively raised $29 million in the four non-federal statewide races while Republicans raised nearly $200 million.