A rite of Florida politics is that there is always debate about debates.
Challengers usually want more, and incumbents who believe they are safe will waver on the subject.
It’s kind of what Gov. Ron DeSantis finished with the challenger charlie christ. He declined to participate in the “Before You Vote” debate, the only one of the governors’ jaw-dropping festivals scheduled for statewide broadcast.
DeSantis agreed the offer of WPEC CBS 12, a television station belonging to the ultraconservative Sinclair Broadcast Group. This should give the governor a decisive advantage on the field, but Crist said he would join the governor in this game on October 12 anyway. It’s unclear how many face-to-face the voting public will see or what access state media will have.
Of course, that’s smart policy on the Governor’s part.
However, is this also a disservice to the people of Florida?
Of course it is. Most undecided voters will have to decide which candidate to back based on sound bites, direct mail and TV spots.
Crist longs for the chance to take on DeSantis on a variety of issues. They include voting restrictions, governor-approved LGBTQ+ discrimination, barriers to free speech, the racial “riot” whistle law, classroom interference, and more.
The challenger is close enough in the polls to make things interesting, but he needs a knockout. But even if Crist lands a haymaker or two in the debate, without a statewide audience, that might not matter.
Somewhere, Fried Nikki nods and says “yeah, yeah”.
Crist was as elusive to her on the Democratic primary debates as DeSantis is now, although they eventually had one. one-on-one discussion, and it got fiery. It didn’t make a difference either, as Crist won the election in the blink of an eye.
DeSantis seems content to dig into his bloated bank account for a blitz of warm, fuzzy ads that claim to show he’s loved by Floridians. There is no mention of critical woke race theory, teachers indoctrinating students, or election police.
The ads are so sweet that viewers should brush their teeth after watching.
But you go with what works, and apparently that’s what the Governor did. It’s safer for DeSantis to script a Hallmark-like commercial than to give Crist a chance to get under his skin. Showing the Governor’s typical temper and impatience would not be a good idea.
Crist has gained momentum and support in recent weeks, but because he’s been essentially invisible to the general public since winning Primary. The debate was going to be his big chance to, as he put it, hold DeSantis “accountable for his extremist, anti-choice, billionaire donor agenda.”
He will have that chance.
But if his attacks fall in the forest, will anyone hear them?