DeSantis’ two-for-one brutal blow, ‘astroturf’ Crist supporters and more highlights from Florida debate

After the dust settled Monday night following the Sunshine State’s only scheduled gubernatorial debate, no amount of bussed in supporters from Democratic challenger former Rep. Charlie Crist could negate Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ record suggesting the race may be all but over for the “worn-out, old donkey.”

Facing off at the Sunrise Theater in Fort Pierce, FL for an hour-long debate that touched on the economy, border security and, among other issues, the culture war, Crist’s performance provided ample opportunity for America’s Governor to remind voters how he “took the arrows” and would continue “to fight the good fight.”

One such highlight came when, after a deliberate effort to try and corner DeSantis into commenting on his intentions for 2024, the governor landed a two-for-one blow against his challenger that reaffirmed his commitment to Florida while knocking Crist. “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.”

That moment had come well after supposedly bused-in “astroturf” supporting the Democrat had failed to disrupt DeSantis with shouting that instead only earned them a rebuke from WPEC anchor and moderator for the debate Liz Quirantes.

Newsweek’s opinion editor Josh Hammer touched on this when he wrote, “Crist’s obnoxious, yelling, and shouting ‘supporters’ are almost assuredly fake/astroturfed. I wouldn’t be even remotely surprised to learn later this week that the Crist campaign paid to bus them in.”

His suggestion was supported by Broward County’s Republican Party Executive Director Lauren Cooley who said, “Definitely organized. I asked a lady in the bathroom where she got her pink Crist shirt. She froze and said ‘where we all met up.'”

DeSantis stayed with the facts of his record in comparison to his former Republican opponent, especially as it pertained to arguably the largest challenge faced during his administration, COVID.

“I rejected Charlie Crist’s lockdown letter,” the governor said harkening back to a message from 2020 that pushed for the draconian measures embraced by progressives across the country, “I kept the state open and I kept the state free. And we now have the biggest budget surplus in the history of Florida, we have a 2.5 percent unemployment, second lowest on record, and we just did the biggest tax cut in Florida history.”

In response, Crist tried to pin DeSantis as “the shutdown guy,” but the governor wouldn’t let that slide as he reminded, “his supporters sued me to keep the kids out of school in 2020,” before landing how important keeping schools open had been with the nation’s report card detailing “we are number one in the country in both” fourth-grade reading and mate when adjusted for demographics.

(Video: WPEC)

Of course, DeSantis truly cemented how he had managed all of the achievements he had made in his first term as governor because he showed up to work.

By comparison, he laid out that through 2022 when Crist was still in Congress and could have pushed for some of the agendas that he wanted for Florida now instead of reportedly voting with President Joe Biden 100 percent of the time, the Democrat only showed up to work 14 days.

The highlight reel went on nailing Crist over divisiveness and the radical ideologies that he has promoted.

But with polls showing DeSantis leading by large margins, some as much as double digits, and the fervor of the crowd outside the debate cheering on the governor, the appreciation for his remarks in his closing statement was evident. “I took a lot of flak in the process, but through it all, I was always more concerned about protecting your job than I was about saving my own. I took the arrows so you wouldn’t have to.”

The entirety of the debate can be watched below.

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Kevin Haggerty

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