Florida’s gubernatorial race is getting an unlikely upset on Wednesday (September 28) afternoon when Hurricane Ian makes landfall.
Both Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and his Democratic challenger, one-time Republican and former Governor Charlie Crist, have to navigate their political ambitions through the storm, which is complicating matters.
The stakes are high for DeSantis. This could be a make-or-break moment for the Governor, who has to deal with an event out-of-his control that could change how Florida voters perceive him heading into the midterms. But, the hurricane also presents the Republican Governor with media coverage that — if leveraged — could be a significant boost to his 2024 ambitions.
Aubrey Jewett, a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida, explained that “for DeSantis, who has such a reputation as such a polarizing figure, it’s an opportunity for him to show that he can be bipartisan on some really important issues, some really important actions.”
However, Jewett continued, “there’s always a danger — a risk that you’re not perceived as an effective leader, in which case it might actually turn very heavily against you.”
DeSantis seems to be dealing with the dichotomy well and rising to the occasion.
He already addressed the possibility of briefing President Joe Biden on the impact of the natural disaster, saying: “My view on all of this is, like, you’ve got people’s lives at stake, you’ve got their property at stake, and don’t have time for pettiness. … My phone line is open.”
The natural disaster, however, has sidelined Crist, who resigned his seat from Congress last month.
Crist has suspended his campaign in critical media markets as the state prepares to deal with the aftermath of Ian, a move that many believe is an attempt to avoid appearing as though his politicizing a natural disaster.
He is also holding off on his criticism against DeSantis, telling reporters on Tuesday (September 27), “I don’t want to get into Monday morning quarterbacking before Monday. I don’t think it’s appropriate,” he said in response to questions about DeSantis performance.
Whether or not his diplomacy will pay off remains to be seen.