OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis made a major change to his schedule over the weekend that took him and others by surprise.
Due to an “unforeseen tragedy,” DeSantis was forced to pull out of an appearance in New York in support of GOP gubernatorial nominee Lee Zeldin, who is currently serving as a U.S. congressman.
As of Monday morning, Fox News reported that the Florida governor’s office had no official explanation about the pullout. Citing a report in the New York Post, the outlet noted further that Zeldin’s campaign is now working on a new date when the Florida governor can appear as he attempts to defeat Democratic incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“An unforeseen tragedy forced Gov. DeSantis to reschedule his trip to New York,” Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz told The Post, according to Fox News. “While we’re rescheduling with Gov. DeSantis for a later date, tonight’s fundraiser will proceed and is expected to raise almost a million dollars.”
The outlet noted that Hochul has joined the ranks of other Democratic governors blasting DeSantis.
“I just want to say to the 1.77 million Jews who call New York home: Thank you for calling New York home. Don’t go anywhere or to another state. Florida is overrated,” she claimed as she signed a Holocaust education bill this month. “I shouldn’t say this, but look at the governor. It starts at the top down.”
Her remarks came on the heels of similar statements by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who, in an ad he took out in Florida in July claimed that under DeSantis’ leadership, “freedom is under attack” in Florida.
In an appearance on Dan Bongino’s Fox News program over the weekend, DeSantis fired back, saying that she and his Florida Democratic gubernatorial opponent Rep. Charlie Crist “are representative of this leftist mindset that they do believe the conservative half of the country are effectively second-class citizens.”
But the stepped-up criticism of DeSantis by Democrats seems to indicate that the party increasingly fears that he will run for president someday soon and be extremely hard to beat.
Crist, who previously served a term as a GOP governor of the Sunshine State, issued an urgent appeal to his party’s donors over the weekend indicating as much.
He said that Democrats need to step up now big time and help him defeat 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.”