By Nanette Holt
GAINESVILLE, Fla.—Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis easily defeated his Democrat challenger on Nov. 8, securing a second term as the Sunshine State’s top executive.
Decision Desk HQ projected DeSantis as the winner at 8 p.m. EST. DeSantis drew 58 percent of the vote compared to Crist’s 41 percent, with more than 86 percent of the vote counted as of 8:30 p.m. ET, according to Decision Desk HQ.
During his reelection campaign, he practically ignored his opponent, former Congressman Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), often not mentioning him during appearances, and barely taking swipes at him in TV commercials.
While sparring at their only debate, Crist broke from the agreed-upon rule of not asking each other questions. That’s when DeSantis took the gloves off, some said.
“Yes or no? Will you serve a full, four-year term if you’re reelected governor of Florida?” Crist demanded in rapid-fire punches. “It’s not a tough question.”
“It’s a fair question, and he won’t tell ya,” Crist said in frustration, as the moderator reminded him that asking it went against the rules.
DeSantis then delivered a roundhouse, the most-repeated line in post-debate buzz.
“I know that Charlie’s interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden,” DeSantis said, stone-faced. “But I just want to make things very, very clear. The only worn-out old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist.”
Now, politicos in Florida and around the country want to know the answer to Crist’s question: What’s next for the polarizing politician?
On Nov. 8, few DeSantis fans in Florida fretted about whether the 44-year-old phenom would win reelection.
“It’s not even close—Ron all the way,” said Gainesville resident Carol Keir, flashing a confident smile outside a church polling site in her mid-North Florida community.
“He’ll win by double digits!” she predicted, then added in jest, “Triple digits!”
Her husband, Col. Steve Keir, a retired 30-year Army doctor, agreed DeSantis was the best choice for governor … for now.
But as his wife of 40 years expressed enthusiasm for a Trump-DeSantis ticket in 2024, he shook his head.
“I’m leaning toward Trump getting out of the way and letting DeSantis run,” he said. His wife wasn’t happy with that opinion.
Many Floridians told The Epoch Times that they’re fearful about what would happen to Florida if DeSantis relinquishes power in a White House bid.
That doesn’t worry Keir.
“I’m more worried about the country than Florida,” he said.
The question of DeSantis’s future is one many are discussing, including former President Donald Trump.
On Nov. 5, Trump boasted about his chances in a 2024 presidential run during a rally in Pennsylvania.
“We’re winning big in the Republican Party for the nomination, like nobody’s ever seen before,” Trump said. “There it is, Trump at 71 percent, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10 percent.”
Trump poked at other possible 2024 GOP candidates, as well.
“Mike Pence at seven [percent]. Oh, Mike is doing better than I thought. Liz Cheney—there’s no way she’s at 4 percent. There’s no way. There’s no way. But we’re at 71, to 10, to seven, to four.”
Trump has a long-standing habit of dubbing competitors with disparaging nicknames, then aligning with them later.
The next day, after mocking DeSantis, Trump called on rally attendees in Miami to vote to reelect their governor, and enthusiastically backed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), as well. When Trump ran against Rubio, he called him by a nickname he’d assigned—”Little Marco.”
In a hypothetical 2024 matchup between Biden and DeSantis, Florida voters responding in a mid-October poll said they’d choose their governor over the current president.
Results tipped in DeSantis’s favor 48 percent to 42 percent, according to pollsters at Florida Atlantic University.
On the question of a rematch between Trump and Biden, the winner was Trump with 45 percent to Biden’s 41 percent, in that same poll of Floridians.
It’s unclear what’s next for Crist. He stepped down from his congressional seat early to focus on his campaign against DeSantis. He previously served as a Republican governor before registering as an Independent in an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid.
Until his recent resignation, he’d served the past five years as a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
DeSantis’s win is the GOP’s ninth straight Florida gubernatorial victory. The last elected Democratic governor was Lawton Chiles, who served from 1991 until his death in 1998.
Jack Phillips and John Haughey contributed to this report.