Florida newspapers line up behind Charlie Crist in governor’s race; how much does it matter?

By: - October 27, 2022 2:27 pm

Production workers stack newspapers onto a cart at a printing and distribution plant. Credit: Angela Major/The Janesville Gazette via AP

Democrat Charlie Crist has picked up his third endorsement by a major Florida newspaper — this time, from the Tampa Bay Times, under the headline: “A decent man or a bully?”

Previously, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post recommended voting for Crist, who served as governor as a Republican between 2007 and 2011 before becoming a Democrat and winning election to the U.S. House.

“I’m incredibly grateful to earn the support of my hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times, as we work to defeat Ron DeSantis’s divisive games and bring decency back to the Sunshine State,” Crist said in a written statement. “Floridians are good people and deserve a governor who will unite them, not divide for his own political ambitions — I’ll be that governor.”

Nevertheless, Crist continues to trail the Republican incumbent in the polls and lags far behind in fundraising.

Democrat Charlie Crist speaks in Tallahassee on Sept. 16, 2022, as Gov. Ron DeSantis defended flying migrants from Texas to Massachusetts. Credit: Michael Moline

Two major Florida newspapers — the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel, published by the Tribune Co. — have announced a corporate dictate to withhold endorsements in the races for governor and U.S. Senate this year.

It’s not clear newspaper endorsements carry weight any more, Susan MacManus, professor emerita of politics at the University of South Florida, said in a telephone interview.

“For older voters, endorsements still matter, and for people who read newspapers and love their newspapers, endorsements can matter, but those are often people who also have already made up their minds about who they’re going to vote for,” she said.

“Critical is trying to reach this younger one-third of our registrants who often don’t read newspapers and rely on other sources. That doesn’t really target them like they need to be targeted right now for Democrats. Democrats cannot win statewide races in Florida without having a substantial portion of the younger vote, and the younger vote is harder to turn out in a midterm election. But they’re not going to do it through newspaper endorsements,” MacManus said.

The DeSantis campaign has not responded to a request for comment.

The Times editorial board noted that DeSantis won election in 2018 with 49.6 percent of the vote.

“In other words, more people voted for someone else. We thought that might encourage him to build consensus. Instead, he doubled-down on the tribalism that plagues too much of today’s politics,” the board wrote.

‘He has to crush those who oppose him’

“We wanted to believe in him, for the good of the state. But he has always acted as if he won in a landslide, with a mandate not just to govern but to rule. It is not enough for him to win. He has to crush those who oppose him, whoever they are.”

The editorial calls Crist “a decent man who always asks, ‘What do you think?’ or ‘What would you do?’ That’s not DeSantis’ style. Crist will compromise, which is essential to the long-term health of Florida. At heart, he is a uniter. DeSantis is not. He divides to conquer.”

It concludes: “Do you want the state governed by a decent man or a bully? The Tampa Bay Times recommends voting for Charlie Crist, a man of decency, for governor.”

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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.