Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Refuses To Rule Out 2024 Presidential Run In Reelection Debate

Charlie Crist came out attacking the Republican governor in his last real chance to turn a race that appears headed toward a second DeSantis term.

Republican Ron DeSantis refused to rule out a 2024 presidential run on Monday evening as he seeks a second term as Florida governor, declining to address challenges from Democratic nominee Charlie Crist to promise to serve out a full four years if reelected.

DeSantis instead suggested that he had no interest in challenging President Joe Biden. “The only worn-out old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist,” he said.

The exchange came during the sole debate between Crist and DeSantis in the general election campaign, barely two weeks before Election Day, as Crist attempted to use DeSantis’ presumed interest in a White House bid and his full support for a new 15-week abortion ban to claw back into a race that appears to be moving in DeSantis’ direction.

“He won’t even tell you if he’ll serve four years if you reelect him. I mean, come on. You deserve better than that,” Crist told the audience in the Fort Pierce auditorium and watching on television.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist take to the stage for their only scheduled debate in Fort Pierce, Florida, on Oct. 24, 2022.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Democratic opponent Charlie Crist take to the stage for their only scheduled debate in Fort Pierce, Florida, on Oct. 24, 2022.
Crystal Vander Weit/TCPalm.com via AP, Pool

Crist, who served as Florida’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011 but is now a Democrat, also hit DeSantis on the state’s ongoing property insurance crisis, which is certain to become even worse following Hurricane Ian’s trail of destruction across the state late last month, as well as his handling of COVID-19.

According to a Brown University analysis, 29,200 Floridians died of the virus who might have lived had they received the vaccine between July 2021 and April 2022. DeSantis, who aggressively pushed for vaccines for older Americans when they first became available, stopped doing so for other age groups after the GOP voting base became more vocally opposed to them.

“I would have listened to scientists, unlike the governor,” Crist said. “Ron, I wouldn’t pat yourself on the back too much about your response to COVID. We’ve lost 82,000 of our fellow Floridians. ... And if only we’d had the standard of other states in the United States, 40,000 of those people would still be alive, enough to fill Tropicana Stadium in St. Petersburg.”

DeSantis, nonetheless, has used his willingness to “reopen” Florida quickly in the summer and autumn of 2020 as a major selling point both in his reelection campaign as well as to a national audience.

“I led based on facts, not on fear,” he said Monday evening. “I took the arrows so you didn’t have to.”

This is Crist’s second try as a Democrat to regain the job he held as a Republican. He was the Democratic nominee in 2014, too, when he wound up losing to then-Gov. Rick Scott by 64,000 votes — a single percentage point.

Crist, as the sitting governor, previously tried to run for the U.S. Senate in 2010, first as a Republican against Marco Rubio and then as an independent when it became clear Rubio would win the GOP nomination. Rubio, who at the time was out of office after serving as the speaker of the state House, is seeking his third term in the U.S. Senate this fall.

In both his previous runs for the governorship, Crist was able to raise enormous sums for his campaign. But he’s had difficulty this time against DeSantis as Democratic donors instead turned toward what they saw as more winnable races across the country.

Heading into the final weeks, Crist had $2.2 million available to spend, compared to DeSantis’ $97.8 million.

Recent polls, meanwhile, show DeSantis with a 10-point lead.

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