President Joe Biden may have targeted former President Donald Trump in his speech sounding the alarm against the American right wing, but Charlie Crist says the warning extends to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
In an address on the “soul of the nation” that drew praise from the left and Trump’s critics and consternation from Trump’s supporters, Biden denounced the former President and his political philosophy. Biden also extended his indictment to “MAGA Republicans.”
Speaking to reporters in Miami on Friday, Crist, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee hoping to deny DeSantis a second term in the Governor’s Mansion, said he thought it was a “great speech” with strong implications for Florida.
“The guy’s telling the truth. Democracy is at stake in this election, and the point of the spear is Florida,” Crist said. “I mean, we have an autocrat in Governor DeSantis, who would like to be a dictator of America. He wants to run for President. That’s crystal clear, I think, to everybody.”
DeSantis has repeatedly denied any consideration of running for President, but that hasn’t stopped his surge as a possible 2024 contender and conservative successor to Trump. DeSantis has not falsely claimed that the 2020 election was stolen, unlike Trump and many of his supporters, but the Florida Governor has followed Trump’s lead on election laws, immigration and law enforcement.
“What President Biden did was ring the alarm and say this is a real threat to democracy in our country in the future, and it’s hitting us right now, in these Midterm Elections,” Crist said.
During his speech, Biden made multiple sleights against “MAGA Republicans,” using an acronym for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement. When asked about DeSantis, who ascended to the Governor’s Mansion in large part because of the former President, Crist said there’s no question DeSantis is a MAGA Republican.
“Clearly he’s playing that card, and he’s kind of a mini Trump and trying to out trump Trump, which is a challenge for him,” Crist said.
Republican leaders have pilloried Biden for his speech, calling it divisive. DeSantis has not appeared publicly since Biden’s address, but his team offered multiple reactions.
“The rule of law, democracy, free and fair elections, and love of country — those concepts that Biden just used the Presidential pulpit to claim are exclusive to his party — are the very things that keep conservatives fighting,” DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin tweeted Thursday.
Deputy Press Secretary Jeremy Redfern tweeted an image of Biden speaking in the fore of Independence Hall, which was illuminated red as the backdrop of Biden’s speech. Photoshopped on Biden’s podium in the image was a seal with a communist-style hammer and sickle.
“The most divisive speech in my lifetime from behind the Seal of the President of the United States,” Redfern tweeted.
In the analysis of Crist — who left the Republican party during his term as Governor after he embraced then-President Barack Obama — Biden distinguished between MAGA Republicans and good Republicans.
“The President made a specific point to say that there are good Republicans and reiterated that,” Crist said. “I feel that way, too.”
Last month, Crist came under fire for telling DeSantis supporters “I don’t want your vote” at his first campaign stop after winning the Democratic nomination. He called for unity between “good Democrats, good independents, good Republicans,” but critics latched on to the first part of the quote to call Crist divisive.
Some moderate Republicans are pro-abortion rights, Crist noted Friday before attacking DeSantis for signing a bill that bans abortions after 15 weeks with no exemptions for rape or incest.
Crist weathered attacks from Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried during the Democratic Primary that he is personally “for life” and campaigned as “pro-life” in the past. However, the former Republican Governor has sought to prove his pro-abortion rights bona fides, including by highlighting his 2010 veto of a bill that would have required most women to pay for an ultrasound before receiving an abortion.
“That is barbaric,” Crist said of the 15-week abortion ban. “I can’t understand it. That’s medieval. It’s wrong. Women don’t want it. Reasonable men don’t want it. It’s not respectful toward women and their right to choose.”
Until his resignation this week, Crist had represented Florida’s 13th Congressional District since winning the seat in the 2016 election. Crist was elected Governor as a Republican in 2006 but left the party and did not seek re-election in 2010, opting instead for an ultimately unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.
DeSantis currently holds the polling and fundraising lead in his re-election bid. The latest polling commissioned by one progressive coalition put DeSantis up 3 points over Crist, within the poll’s margin of error. However, FiveThirtyEight puts DeSantis up 7 points over Crist, a large margin compared to recent Florida history. The outfit also gives DeSantis a 93% chance of winning in November.