Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., might be embracing the reputation of being a maverick candidate in Florida's gubernatorial election.
During a recent campaign speech, Crist — the Democrat challenger to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — said he is "so damn proud" of President Joe Biden for last week's controversial national address in Pennsylvania, amid an ominous backdrop, in which the commander-in-chief condemned "MAGA Republicans" as a threat to the republic.
Biden was essentially alienating half the American audience with his anti-MAGA/anti-Donald Trump rhetoric. But Crist didn't see it that way.
"How many of you saw Joe Biden speak [last Thursday] on national TV?" Crist asked his group of cheering supporters.
The former Florida governor (2007-11) then praised Biden for having the tenacity and "courage" to call out the Make America Great Again wing of the Republican base.
"God love him. God love him, and I do," said Crist of Biden. "And he's told it straight. Democracy is at stake. ... Our freedoms are at stake. And the President laid it out, and he couldn't hold back, and I'm so damn proud of him for it."
Crist continued in the speech: "We have to have that kind of courage and just tell it like it is. I'm gonna be a happy guy. You know, I'm a nice fella. But don't ever confuse my kindness with weakness. We're gonna take it to them."
The upcoming Florida gubernatorial election will be a popular-vote format. But last week, Crist was seemingly in no mood to plead for Republican, independent, or even moderate Democrat votes, telling reporters, "Those who support DeSantis should stay with him and vote for him, and I don't want your vote. If you have that hate in your heart, keep it there."
Back in July, Governor DeSantis trumpeted Florida as having more registered Republicans than Democrats, seemingly making Crist's climb to a gubernatorial victory — minus GOP voter crossovers — more difficult.
DeSantis has also taken note of Crist's penchant for chastising conservative and independent voters.
Crist has "referred to conservative voters as the 'toothless set.' And so this is a guy that is — I think he realizes that this is the end of his career," DeSantis recently told conservative talk show host Mark Levin. "So, he's lashing out. He's attacking people. And this is just not a way to win an election."
Citing the last four Florida gubernatorial tracking polls from Five Thirty-Eight, covering Aug. 17, 29, 30, and Sept. 2, the incumbent DeSantis maintains an average lead of 3.8 percentage points over Crist.
However, the previous two polls from Five Thirty-Eight had DeSantis sporting an average lead of 7.5 percentage points.
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