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DeSantis, whose highly organized campaign was perceived as practice for a 2024 presidential operation, was polling ahead of Crist by double digits before Election Day, according to FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics averages.
The DeSantis-Crist race was dominated by economics amid 40-year-high inflation and abortion access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, although Hurricane Ian underscored a possible property insurance crisis and other local issues. But DeSantis’s response to the deadly storm provided him with even more free media coverage when he already had a record $100 million fundraising advantage over Crist.
DeSantis’s presidential aspirations were broached during the pair’s stand-alone debate, with Crist creating headlines by confronting DeSantis on whether he intended to serve another four years in office. DeSantis awkwardly waited for the moderator to intercede since their respective camps had agreed the candidates would not ask each other questions, to no avail.
“I know that Charlie’s interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden, but I just want to make things very, very clear,” DeSantis said later. “The only worn-out, old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist.”
DeSantis also had to contend with former President Donald Trump as the two careen toward a likely clash over the 2024 Republican nomination. Days before polls closed, Trump announced a Miami-Dade County rally with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), but not DeSantis. DeSantis then advertised a rival event four hours northwest in Hillsborough County.
Crist, himself a former governor and congressman from the Gulf Coast city of St. Petersburg, made the surprising decision to embrace President Joe Biden, despite Biden losing Florida to Trump by 3 percentage points in 2020. Amid Biden’s poor approval ratings and Republican inroads in the state, particularly among Hispanic voters, Crist appeared alongside Biden in Miami-Dade and Broward counties last week.
“I think he’s great,” Crist told the Washington Examiner of Biden in Jacksonville, Florida. “I love him to death, and I think he’s doing a tremendous job for our country.”