Joe Henderson: Despite latest poll Ron DeSantis has the edge in 2022 election
Charlie Crist fundraises well, but nowhere close to Ron DeSantis.

Ron DeSantis CHARLIE CRIST
Democrats shouldn't make too much of a recent poll, but Republicans shouldn't make too little of it, either.

By now, Floridians know to be skeptical about political polls. I’m sure that was the reaction by many, myself included, when the latest St. Pete Polls survey showed Charlie Crist leading Gov. Ron DeSantis by 1 percentage point in a theoretical head-to-head matchup in 2022.

DeSantis held a narrow lead over Democrat Nikki Fried, who is stepping up her game lately.

Before we dig too deep into that, though, haters might want to have a moment of pause before dismissing it as fake news. The poll has a tiny 1.6% margin of error, made more impressive by the large sample size of 3,952 people.

St. Pete Polls also is part of the Five Thirty Eight and Real Clear Politics aggregations.

Translation: Those folks have some cred.

For now, we’ll focus on the potential Crist-DeSantis matchup. We’ll keep in mind that a poll is only the capture of a moment in time — and it’s quite far out from the election. Democrats might be encouraged, and it could help with fundraising, but that’s about it.

Besides, there are some landmines inside the numbers for Democrats.

For instance, Crist holds a 10% lead over DeSantis among those ages 18-29. That’s a group where turnout is always a major issue.

Black voters supported Crist in this poll by a whopping 68% to 16%. However, Florida’s new voting restrictions could suppress Black turnout, which, I suppose, was the intent all along.

It wouldn’t take much erosion in the Black and youth vote for Crist’s margin to evaporate.

However, it also would be a mistake if Republicans make too little of this poll. They haven’t won this thing yet, and the perception is starting to build that DeSantis’ real aim is the White House in 2024. Could swing voters decide they don’t want a Governor who will spend two years running for a higher office, only to potentially leave before his term is up?

Even if he overcomes that, this is a volatile time. DeSantis has been popular so far (though he was upside down in the latest poll), but that could quickly tank if his disdain for COVID-19 restrictions backfires. Remember, his approval rating sank last summer when the virus rampaged through Florida.

That could happen again, especially with DeSantis being vehemently opposed to mandatory masks in schools.

Then, there’s the likability factor with DeSantis. He can be prickly and has a dismissive demeanor, and that could turn off the much-sought independent voters. The poll showed Crist with a 6% lead there, and that could be significant. If Crist wins the nomination, his genial nature will be in sharp contrast to DeSantis.

Bottom line?

Poll or no poll, the odds still greatly favor DeSantis at the moment.

Vaccinations are the best way to control the virus, and the data shows sharp increases in those rushing to get the shot.

Vaccines give a high level of protection against a potentially lethal bug, which could soon mean fewer bad headlines and better poll numbers for DeSantis. He’s also sitting on a vast amount of money that he won’t have to spend until the actual campaign gets serious.

The poll gave us something to talk about, though.

For now, that’s enough.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


12 comments

  • zhombre

    August 4, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    The election is over a year away. Much can happen in the interim and like Yogi Berra said, predictions are hard, especially about the future. I suspect Crist will be the Dem nominee and be edged out by DeSantis in another close election. I also suspect the Biden admin will implode, the Dem majority in the House will be shaved to a nub if not lost, and the atmosphere of rancor and mutual partisan contempt will continue unabated.

  • Ron Ogden

    August 4, 2021 at 8:35 pm

    Polling a year-plus out (DeSantis has not even filed for reelection yet) is good only to generate clicks. Particularly in this case, with the media frenzied about the bug. How did St. Pete Polls run their oversample? Did they select for people who have had loved ones die of the disease? When they got a “yes” to that question was the next one “do you believe Democrats like Crist and (the other one) are angels from heaven sent to banish the Republicans to burn in hell, or merely to throw them out of Florida?”

  • Jana Murdock

    August 5, 2021 at 1:20 am

    DeSantis won the state by the slimmest of margins to begin with. Let’s face it, Trump lost due to how he handled COVID, too bad DeSantis didn’t learn from that. I will also mention that Biden won due to more coming out to vote against Trump. That could happen here. DeSantis has backed himself into a corner, he won’t admit wrong (like the Governor of Arkansas I might add). Big mistake putting laws in place for no mandatory masking in schools. His childish antics, “don’t Fauci my Florida” appeal to only a small segment, one that he seems to be catering too. Nevertheless I await delivery of my new t-shirt, “Don’t DeSantis My Democracy “

    • Ron Ogden

      August 5, 2021 at 7:19 pm

      Trump won Florida handily.

  • Ocean Joe

    August 5, 2021 at 9:14 am

    Even if the poll is a fluke, or the result of a temporary backlash to his ‘no mask mandate’ mandate, it’s the first time since he took office he is underwater with voters, and shows both Dems in striking range.
    The anti-riot bill was another piece of bad policy goose-stepped through the legislature, and promptly revealed to be exactly what it was intended to be: an assault on the freedoms of one group differentially applied to everyone else.
    Desantis is the incumbent, he’s got plenty of money, he would be a far better presidential candidate than the bloated guy. But that’s also his problem: he’s running for two jobs at the same time. And ignoring Florida’s best interests while he’s at it.

    • Ron Ogden

      August 5, 2021 at 7:26 pm

      DeSantis has not yet filed for either job, the one in which he is the incumbent, or the other one. Your claim that “he’s running for two jobs at the same time” is asinine. BTW, there are nine–count ’em nine–Democrats running for Governor of Florida. Nine. And they all think they are going to win. And they all have about the same chance–snowball in Miami, which by the way, is the regional version of. . .nah, I guess I don’t want to insult anybody.

    • Tom

      August 7, 2021 at 8:52 am

      It’s just not a fluke seaweed joe it was a sandbag deliberate hit poll. Chamber poll released Th blew that up easily. FP poll totally off center as well on masks. Gov allowing parents to mage choice, novel thought.

  • Jeffrey P Hess

    August 7, 2021 at 8:00 am

    The “Sensible Center” will sway this election. Crist embraces it. DeSantis is digging in his cry-baby heels over a very personal issue that could and does cause suffering and death. DeSantis is, oddly, going against conservative ideals, buy not letting local people govern (local mask mandates) without government intervention (wah wah, if you wear masks I will withhold money from you!). DeSantis is squandering a lot of “political capital” on this issue. Count this independent for Crist.

  • Tom

    August 7, 2021 at 8:49 am

    Yeah right, independent nothing.
    You obviously don’t read, America’s Governor
    ( where are Cuomo & Newsom) Gov Ron made it clear parents decide instead of teachers union.
    He didn’t say kids cannot wear mask. Once again frenzy media misleads with Dem talking points. As for the Dem Govs, one is a predator and the other is losing his recall. State of disarray in Dem party. It’s ok as long as they allow millions of illegals in to deliberately change State Demographics. A very large backlash vote coming in Nov/22. 40 US House seats & 3 to 6 Senate seats flipping. Florida chamber poll has America’s Governor up 10 vs both. DeSantis by 10 pts next Nov as he will carry real independents not Dem independents.
    Enjoy.

  • Dee

    August 10, 2021 at 1:35 am

    He has a snowball chance in hell to be elected. Folks learned their lesson believing in a con man such as Trump to be fooled for a second time by the likes of this Governor. You would think! FloriDa! Even though you still have some diehards out there. However, you would think that folks won’t continue to be stupid, naive or hateful. He is causing folks to risk their health by leading them down a false narrative. It’s akin to the Reverend Jones years ago getting folks to drink his kool-aid literally and to kilt themselves.

    • Tom

      August 11, 2021 at 9:55 pm

      Demented Dee.
      DeSantis is America’s Gov.
      You are a hater, Manchurian bot.
      Call Fondler Cuomo the Dums example.
      DeSantis by 10 pts.

  • john foran

    August 17, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    One look at the exponential growth of cases on the dashboards of the large school districts in Florida spells doom for Desantis. With a peak estimated to be a month away, he will forever be associated with dead teachers and children. This is going to get extremely bad. Buckle up -( that’s a safety law no one argued with ).

Comments are closed.


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