Florida Democrats beg national party and donors not to give up on them

Nominee Crist goes on attack against DeSantis, but campaign needs money — a lot

By: - August 24, 2022 2:58 pm

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist appears on MSNBC on Aug. 24, 2022, after winning the Democratic primary for governor. Source: Crist Twitter

Florida Democrats appealed to the national party and donor network on Wednesday, following Charlie Crist’s win in the gubernatorial primary and Val Demings’ coronation in the party’s Senate primary: Don’t give up on us.

The fear is that those much-needed deep pockets of money might not be open to them, what with concerns over Gov. Ron DeSantis’ massive campaign war chest, the GOP eclipse of Democrats in party registration, and shifts among the state’s Hispanic population toward the Republicans.

“‘Fatalistic’ is probably the best word to describe Democrats’ mood,” Democratic data scientist Sean Phillippi told NBC News on Tuesday.

However, Crist urged donors to take a long view, warning on CNN that it’s better to hobble the governor’s projected presidential campaign in Florida by preventing his reelection than wait for him to mount the national stage.

“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 to do it in 50 states. So let’s do it now,” Crist said.

Nikki Fried, the state agriculture commissioner who lost to Crist, sounded a similar caution and offered ground for encouragement on “Meet the Press” Tuesday evening.

“Look, I just won our state in 2018. You know, I flipped a seat by almost a million votes, 20 points. A seat for commissioner of agriculture that has never been won by a female, has never been won by a Democrat in almost 25 to 30 years,” Fried said.

“Florida is without a doubt not lost. And I think that the Democrats across the entire country need to understand that either we spend money today in 2022 or we’ve got an uphill battle in 2024.”

The party needs all the cash it can scrounge — between his political committee and campaign coffers, DeSantis has more than $132 million to spend, according to the latest financial reports filed on Aug. 18. Crist, by contrast, had a little less than $1.5 million between his campaign and political committee at that point.

GOP attacks

Meanwhile, the general election campaign opened with Republicans attacking Crist and Demings as puppets of Joe Biden.

DeSantis himself hasn’t released any new media since his much-mocked “Top Guv” takeoff earlier this week, but said on Twitter late Tuesday, “Freedom is on the line this November — and our bold agenda for parental rights in education, safe communities, a vibrant economy, and a protected environment is vital to keeping the state of Florida free.”

Republican Senate incumbent Marco Rubio released an anti-Demings ad on Twitter, calling her “a failure in Congress who has never passed a single meaningful bill. And just another radical rubber stamp who votes with [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi 100 percent.”

Christina Pushaw, of the DeSantis campaign staff, published a tweet mocking Crist for calling Biden on CNN an “exceptional” president. She included a perplexed emoji,

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel released a written statement, saying, “Congratulations to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Marco Rubio, and the entirety of the GOP ticket in the Sunshine State. Republicans are committed to keeping Florida the state for freedom and opportunity, all the while standing up to the Democrats’ woke, anti-family agenda.”

‘It’s all about power’

Crist, for his part, released an ad accusing GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis of “attacking Florida.” In publishing the video on Twitter, Crist warned, “Defeat fascism, defeat DeSantis.”

“He says he’s all about freedom, but only if you do what he says. He’s banning a woman’s right to choose, disenfranchising Black voters. For him, politics is all about power, resentment. He wins, you lose,” the nominee says in the spot.

“He is on the battlefield of hate; I am on the battlefield of love,” Crist said on MSNBC Wednesday morning. “If he wants to run on hate and culture wars and dividing people and making people hate each other, that’s his turf; it’s not mine.”

While on “Meet the Press,” Fried said she’s prepared to run for lieutenant governor on the Crist ticket if asked. “Ron DeSantis is our greatest threat to democracy, so I will do everything in my power, including being on Charlie’s ticket to make sure that happens in November,” she said.

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Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.