Crist to Face DeSantis in November

NBC News projects that Charlie Crist won the Florida primary against Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried Tuesday night, answering the question Democrats have been asking for months: Who will be the underdog against popular Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis?

According to NBC News, Crist had 59.2% of the vote to Fried’s 35.4% as of 8:12 p.m. Eastern Time, with 90% of the vote in. Despite this, few Democratic insiders and political observers gave either Crist or Fried almost no chance in winning the Governship in November, citing every recent public poll showing DeSantis ahead.

In response to DeSantis’ historic $140 million re-election war chest, national Democrats have signaled they will not invest as heavily in Florida as in the past. Since 2018, the state’s Hispanic electorate has shifted rightward. As a result, there are now more registered Republicans than Democrats in Florida for the first time.

“Fatalistic” would be a good word to describe Democrats’ mood, according to Sean Phillippi, a Florida Democrat who voted for Crist. He responded, that for statewide elections, he had little to no hope of the Democrats winning. Voter registration information is very telling. You can’t tell the story of how Charlie Crist beat Ron DeSantis unless there was a significant scandal we don’t know about or where Democrats registered hundreds of thousands of new voters.

More than 20 top Democratic consultants, legislators, and organizers who spoke to NBC News for this article and supported either Crist or Fried agreed with Phillippi. The still-sagging poll numbers for President Joe Biden made many pessimistic about the 2022 elections even more gloomy.

Democratic sources said consultants for Fried and Crist privately confided to others that they just wanted to keep the race close against DeSantis. Still, they did not think either would have a realistic shot in November unless something unexpected happened.

Still, some Democrats remain hopeful that Rep. Val Demings can unseat Sen. Marco Rubio. Deming’s win would produce a rare split ticket, or that national donor could now swoop in and invest considerable sums in stopping DeSantis. There is a good chance that DeSantis can win the Republican spot  for the 2024 presidential elections and face Biden who will be 81 at the time of the presidential election.

Former Florida Democratic Party executive director Screven Watson, said big national money isn’t coming as it used to. We’re bruised, battered, and broke. He said, “The three Bs.” Unfortunately, there is a feeling of predestination here; the Democrats have given up the state of Florida. National donors don’t think this is a good investment when money could be spent in cheaper states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia. According to the numbers – Biden’s polling and DeSantis’ war chest, it seems inevitable.

The sense of near-certain doom surrounding the gubernatorial race now is more palpable than 20 years ago when Gov. Jeb Bush won re-election by 13 percentage points over Bill McBride.

Crist had implicitly acknowledged that he was running a losing campaign by promising to run like Biden in 2020 when he lost Florida by 3.3 percentage points to then-President Trump, the most significant margin in the state since 2004. As one Crist adviser grimly chuckled, acknowledging the long odds, “It’s the Powerball election.”. You never know!

You have a 1 in 292.2 million chance of winning the Powerball jackpot.

Crist supporters maintain that Fried ran a train wreck of a campaign that only found its stride in spring. Crist had begun cultivating institutional donors by that time and was able to capitalize on his deep connections inside and outside the state.

Additionally, Crist had years of experience running for statewide offices, including state education commissioner, attorney general, and governor, which he won in 2006.

After initially being popular, Crist chose not to run for re-election in 2010 and instead ran for the Senate against Marco Rubio. The latter tapped tea party resentment over Crist’s embrace of Barack Obama to defeat him. As an independent candidate, Crist lost.