DeSantis v. Crist in Contentious Race for Florida Governor

Crist faces what many believe is an uphill battle against DeSantis, the incumbent governor and rising star in the GOP

NBC Universal, Inc.

Democrat Charlie Crist is hoping the third time's the charm for him in Tuesday's Florida governor race against Republican Ron DeSantis.

It's the third gubernatorial race for the 66-year-old Crist, who won as a Republican in 2006, didn't seek reelection in 2010, then lost as a Democrat in 2014.

Crist faces what many believe is an uphill battle against DeSantis, the incumbent governor and rising star in the GOP.

DeSantis, 44, narrowly defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum by a little over 32,000 votes out of more than 8.1 million votes cast in his first governor's race in 2018.

While Democrats have had a decades-long advantage in voter registration numbers and Florida has been considered a swing state in presidential elections, those days appear gone.

In the four years since Gillum's loss, Republicans have erased the Democrats’ 263,000-voter registration advantage. As of Sept. 30, Republicans had a lead of 292,533 voters — a swing of nearly 556,000 registered voters over DeSantis’ first term.

As such, DeSantis was believed to have the advantage heading into Tuesday's election.

Both candidates for Florida governor campaigned in different parts of the state Friday in a final push days before Election Day. NBC 6's Phil Prazan reports

The stakes are high for DeSantis, who many see as a likely 2024 presidential candidate if he wins reelection as governor.

Though DeSantis shrugs off talk of 2024, Crist made DeSantis' possible future a focus of the candidates' only debate last month.

Crist accused DeSantis of being too distracted by his national political ambitions to lead properly. DeSantis avoided several attempts by Crist to get him to say he'd serve a full second term.

"I know that Charlie is interested in talking about 2024 and Joe Biden, 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,” DeSantis said.

"You won’t even say if you want to be the governor of Florida after this election," Crist said.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and challenger Charlie Crist had a heated debate in the race for governor. NBC 6's Phil Prazan reports

Crist resigned from his congressional seat shortly after defeating fellow Democrat Nikki Fried in the August primary. DeSantis also stepped down from Congress after winning the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 2018.

During the campaign, Crist has tried to cast himself as a moderate alternative to DeSantis, who has not shied away from wading into cultural issues since taking office.

DeSantis has signed new laws banning abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest, along with blocking critical race theory and LGBTQ issues from many Florida schools. He also led efforts to eliminate Disney's special tax status after the company said they'd work against his Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed by critics as "Don't Say Gay," and has hit the Biden administration on everything from immigration to inflation.

For his part, DeSantis has embraced those battles against what he calls "woke" ideology.

The governor has also touted his approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, when he reopened the state while many others remained in lockdown, saying it saved businesses and allowed children to return to schools.

Though Crist has been aggressive in criticizing DeSantis for his stances, and even received help from Biden in the form of a rally a week before election day, DeSantis has enjoyed an advantage in campaign funding.

The governor has also enjoyed an advantage in polls, with many leading up to the election showing him with a double-digit lead.

Contact Us