Joe Henderson: Charlie Crist is a nice guy but he has a steep hill to climb
Charlie Crist hits the ground in Puerto Rico.

crist pr
Charlie Crist promises to bring back "nice" to governing. Is it enough to derail Ron DeSantis?

Charlie Crist is a handshake politician in a soundbite world. His strength is one-on-one interaction because he remembers names, faces and conversations you might have from long ago, and it’s genuine.

He’s just a darned nice man and pretty smart too.

So it’s not surprising that he plays to his strength in his latest line of attack in his campaign for Governor. It’s his genial nature — his likeability, if you will.

That contrasts with the sandpaper edge Gov. Ron DeSantis often displays in and out of Tallahassee. He doesn’t mind letting anyone know that he’s in charge, and if that upsets people, too bad.

“We need somebody who can bring back good, as corny as that sounds,” Crist said at a recent campaign stop. “We have a Governor who acts like (Donald) Trump. It breaks my heart. It does because that doesn’t look like the real Florida. Floridians are good people.”

Well, most of them are, but that’s a column for another day.

Bring back good, and do it quickly.


That sounds, well, good — at least in theory, and it may be the biggest hole card Crist holds. However, DeSantis appears to have the confidence of someone who just drew a fourth ace. All his chips are in the center of the table because he is sure he is going to win.

DeSantis’ supporters view him as decisive, proactive and someone who freed them from the tyranny of mandatory face masks. If it means tradeoffs on a woman’s right to choose, what teachers can or can’t say, or what transgender kids can do, they seem cool with that.

They see DeSantis as strong, a man of action, and they like the direction the state has taken on his watch. His “free state of Florida” schtick resonates too, because we all love freedom, right?

And Charlie, well, he’s nice, but there are worse things to be.

Charlie is affable, a decent, well-meaning human who wouldn’t chase phantom issues like critical race theory because he knows it’s garbage.

Here’s the thing, though: DeSantis’ supporters appear to want him to do just that because they have a built-in distrust of career politicians. Charlie (that’s what he wants everyone to call him) is that. They believe whatever DeSantis tells them is wrong and must be fixed, and more importantly, they trust him to do that.

DeSantis’ ongoing feud with President Joe Biden and the Washington establishment plays extremely well with his base. And, well, Charlie is part of that establishment.

If it sounds like Charlie has moved past the Democratic Primary in August to concentrate on November, that’s because he probably has.

His two rivals for the nomination don’t seem to have any traction against him. Annette Taddeo’s campaign remains stuck in the mud, and every poll shows Nikki Fried well behind Charlie.

Remember how Rick Scott hammered on Bill Nelson’s age and career politician status months before the U.S. Senate election in 2018. Scott was consistent with that message that Nelson was too old and a creature of the Washington swamp, and it worked.

By starting now with this nice-guy gambit, Charlie contrasts with DeSantis’ prickly, sometimes autocratic approach to governing.

But then, the Governor reminds his supporters that he fights for them against the Mongrel Hordes of Oscar night hosts and other varlets, because he hears them. He probably picked up votes after Wanda Sykes, an Oscar host and openly gay, got off a zinger aimed at DeSantis.

“We’re going to have a great night tonight,” Sykes said. “And for you people in Florida, we’re going to have a gay night.”

DeSantis signed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill on Monday, and the Oscar thing probably made it sweeter.

That’s the problem Charlie and the Florida Democrats face. They can paint the Governor in any way they want, but at this point, it won’t make much difference. It just makes his supporters love him more.

That’s a steep hill for a challenger to climb.

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.


  • tom palmer

    March 28, 2022 at 9:01 pm

    Well, Crist could mention the election fraud involved in delaying legislative races until after the 2022 session was over, the willing ignorance of the ghost candidate efforts by fellow Republicans, the political anti-mask, anti-vaccine COVID policy, the mean-spirited culture wars legislation. etc. etc. etc This is a time for hardball and adult swim. Timidity and temerity won’t win the day.

    • Jerry

      March 28, 2022 at 9:44 pm

      So Democrats can talk about election fraud, but when Republicans do it’s treason? You sure you want Crist to bring that topic up? Because we can talk a lot about what the Democrats did in 2020 if that’s what you want to get into.

      And no one is stopping you from wearing a mask. No one is stopping you from getting the vaccine. If you want to do those things….by all means, go ahead. I’ll even be right there to fight for your right to do those things.

      But let me tell you something……you have NO RIGHT to force that needle into my arm! The authoritarianism displayed by the Democrats during this pandemic was nothing short of disgusting. No respect for individual rights and freedoms. No respect for the constitution. You wanted blind allegiance to the state and to clowns like Anthony Fauci. And you tried to use “public health” as an excuse to implement that tyranny.
      COVID is not going anywhere. It’s here forever now. I’m not going to live the rest of my life in fear behind face masks just so you can feel better about yourself.

      • Moving ahead

        March 29, 2022 at 12:45 am

        You have no right to force that needle ino my arm”

        Why would I stop evolution in progress republican?

        Heck I’d cough in all your faces if you ask and maybe even if you did not to speed it up lol

      • tom palmer

        March 29, 2022 at 9:01 am

        In 2020 the Democrats won a lot of elections fair and square. That angered some of you Republicans and you’ve been whining about it ever since and trying to rig the election laws to keep people away from the polls..

        If you want to gamble with your health or your familly’s health, be my guest,.

        The issue is whether a state leader should play that game for cynical political purposes.

  • Marcus

    March 28, 2022 at 9:26 pm

    I was a lifelong Democrat until recently. I am now an independent. I am a married, black male and a millennial. DeSantis gets my vote in November and hopefully one day for President.

    • Tom

      March 28, 2022 at 10:56 pm

      Great reply Marcus.
      I wish many others would be able to read your outline.

      God bless, I hope you are correct about DeSantis and the future.

    • The freedom flu

      March 29, 2022 at 3:01 am

      COVID: May he should leave some voters first lol

  • Dr.Antxon

    March 29, 2022 at 10:27 am

    ChainGang Charlie! That’s his moniker from when he was one of the most conservative members of the Florida legislature. The man lacks a moral compass.

Comments are closed.


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