DeSantis’ Gubernatorial Race Vitally Important To GOP

While Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may not face the most challenging bid for reelection in November, the contest for governor of the Sunshine State is set to be critically important to the GOP.

Former Republican governor turned Democrat Charlie Crist won his party’s primary contest on Tuesday and will take on DeSantis in the general election. Crist beat Florida Agriculture Commissioner by almost 25 percentage points.

Crist, who currently represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House, is a lock to raise significant campaign contributions from nationwide Democrat interests.

Meanwhile, DeSantis’s national profile has never been higher. He is the clear second-place contender for the GOP nomination for president in 2024, trailing only former President Donald Trump.

If DeSantis loses to Crist in November or wins by less than expected, it would likely signal a Trump surge that would leave the 45th president as the clear leader for the 2024 nomination.

The most recent RealClearPolitics polling average for a DeSantis vs. Crist gubernatorial contest shows DeSantis leading, 49.4% to 43.2%. That average combines polls conducted earlier this month, before Crist’s nomination was sealed on Tuesday evening.

DeSantis has turned Florida politics in a populist conservative direction since pulling a notable upset in 2018, a powerful election cycle for Democrats nationally. He defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum by only 0.4% and trailed in the last RealClearPolitics average before the election by 3.6%.

This year’s campaign is not without risk for DeSantis, even as the statewide political climate is much more favorable to Republicans than it was in 2018. Since then, DeSantis has led the charge in defying federal COVID-19 policies and “woke” education trends. He also took on the hugely powerful Disney corporation on issues central to the cultural conflicts prevailing around the nation.

Crist is running in a statewide election for the first time since he ditched the Republican Party after losing out to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) 12 years ago. Crist was still the favorite of the GOP establishment in 2010 but fell to the Tea Party and Rubio campaigns that hammered Crist for supporting Obama’s stimulus plan during the 2008 financial crisis.

Crist eventually ran as an independent for Senate and garnered only 29.7% of the vote. Rubio is now running for a third term in the Senate.

Florida was the focal point of national politics in the 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, as the infamous hanging chads dispute went all the way to the Supreme Court. This year’s election is likely to set the table for how the GOP approaches a serious run at the White House in two years.