OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Florida Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist, who previously served a term as a GOP governor of the Sunshine State, has issued an urgent appeal to his party’s donors.
They need to step up now big time and help him defeat current Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rising star in the Republican Party, before he becomes too powerful.
There’s just one problem, however: Florida is increasingly less a “battleground” state and has begun to lean much redder under DeSantis’ leadership, with Republican voter registrations now topping registered Democrats for the first time in the state’s history.
“It is the Democrats’ last chance to stop him, and it’s going to be a lot cheaper to do it in Florida than it would be in 50 states,” Crist told CNN last week after winning his party’s primary. “If you want to help (President) Joe Biden get a second term, we need to shut Ron DeSantis down in Florida.”
The undertone of Crist’s urgent message is this: Democrats have to stop DeSantis now before he runs for president because he has a good chance of winning.
CNN noted further:
Crist’s plea for cash was perhaps as creative as it was nakedly desperate. After exhausting most of the $14 million his campaign and political committee raised to defeat Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried in the primary, Crist started the 11-week sprint to the general election nearly from scratch. Meanwhile, DeSantis has been waiting for Crist with $132 million on hand, a record sum for a governor’s race.
But Crist’s pitch was also born out of a difficult reality Democrats face in Florida. After 20-plus years of watching devastating and narrow defeats in the Sunshine State, many Democratic donors this cycle are so far taking a break from Florida. The prevailing narrative heading into the fall is that Florida has become too red and DeSantis too powerful for donors to make an investment here.
Democratic Party insiders told the outlet that donors are more focused on right governor’s races in true battleground states like Wisconsin and Michigan. Also, the donors are pouring money into neighboring Georgia to help Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams try to knock off incumbent GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, who is currently leading her in most polling.
“Charlie has a better chance of getting a large check from the tooth fairy under his pillow than he does from national donors,” one Democratic fundraiser told CNN. “I just don’t think they’re focused on Florida’s governor race. I think they’re focused on winnable seats in states where Democrats already hold the governor’s mansion or it’s an open seat.”
Meanwhile, it likely is not helping that Crist is shunning DeSantis voters as well as insulting them.
“Those who support the governor should stay with him and vote for him, and I don’t want your vote,” Crist said earlier this week. “If you have that hate in your heart, keep it there!”
“I want the vote of the people of Florida who care about our state: good Democrats, good independents, good Republicans,” Crist added. “Unify with this ticket. Unify with Val Demings and Charlie Crist. Unify with us. Those who are haters? You’re going to go off in your own world, and you better get right.”
Democrat nominee for Florida governor Charlie Crist attacks supporters of Gov. @RonDeSantisFL as "haters":
"I don't want your vote. If you have that hate in your heart, keep it there!” pic.twitter.com/n61dNpGSsN
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) August 24, 2022
DeSantis himself took some shots at Crist’s remarks.
“He is insulting the voters,” the governor told Fox News host Mark Levin last week following his Democratic opponent’s statements.
“It’s not because of hate in their hearts. You have workers whose jobs were saved because we kept the state open,” DeSantis added. “He wanted to lock it down. It’s not hate in their hearts. They’re just very appreciative of the leadership.”
His campaign also shared a video of Crist calling DeSantis voters “toothless.”
“So while Ron DeSantis is trying to score political points with the red mean, hard right toothless crowd, his actions have consequences on Florida families,” Crist said.
Charlie Crist talks a lot about "decency, respect, and unity."
But he doesn't want votes from "toothless" Floridians. pic.twitter.com/5sYX403pW9
— DeSantis War Room (@DeSantisWarRoom) August 25, 2022
“He’s also referred to conservative voters as the ‘toothless set,’ DeSantis said. “And so this is a guy that is, I think, he realizes that this is the end of his career. So he’s lashing out. He’s attacking people. And this is just not a way to win an election.”
Crist has also called President Joe Biden an “exceptional leader.”