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Crist absent from hurricane relief drives in Northeast Florida, DeSantis sees double-digit lead

PALATKA, Fla. — Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist’s campaign is offering a lending hand to victims of Hurricane Ian by collecting relief supplies throughout the state.

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Crist’s campaign bus made three stops in Northeast Florida Thursday, but one person was notably absent.

Crist’s face poked through the trees near Riverfront Park in Palatka around 2 p.m. as a crowd of local officials and supports stood by with cases of water and other relief supplies at the ready.

“We just want to make sure that you realize what heartfelt love comes from such a small community within Palatka,” said Palatka Mayor Terrill Hill.

Those supplies, destined for Southwest Florida hurricane victims, were then loaded onto the bus.

Crist dubbed the bus tour the ‘Together Florida Tour’, but ‘together’ apparently did not include Crist himself.

Crist has largely been out of the spotlight since Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida.

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UNF political science professor Dr. Michael Binder called Crist’s absence a missed opportunity.

“You do want to take the opportunity to at least get there. And if you’re going to send a bus route and gather up supplies, it seems like a good opportunity to be doing that yourself,” said Binder.

The news release didn’t specifically say one way or the other whether Crist was going to be physically present on the bus.

His campaign informed us that after the Palatka event Crist spent the day in St. Petersburg conducting interviews, but didn’t have any public events scheduled.

We were also told Crist will join up with the bus in the coming days and directly participate in the distribution of the supplies to Hurricane Ian victims.

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“As our state continues to recover from Hurricane Ian, I am proud of our campaign’s efforts to put the people first and do all we can to lend a helping hand to our neighbors in need,” said Crist in an email. “Florida needs to come together now more than ever as we recover and rebuild.”

In the meantime though, Binder pointed out the spotlight will remain on Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been on the ground in Southwest Florida virtually every day since the storm hit.

“And so, he’s the one getting asked the questions, getting the press conferences, being posted on the news, being posted in the paper, all that stuff,” said Binder.

And all that attention on the incumbent governor seems to be paying off.

A new poll shows Gov. Ron DeSantis with a double-digit lead over his Democratic challenger Charlie Crist.

The poll surveyed voters between Sept. 26th and Sept. 28th, so it includes voter’s attitudes right before and immediately after the storm hit.

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It’s a new high not seen in seven months for DeSantis.

The poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy found DeSantis leading Crist 52-41; an 11-point advantage.

“I think Ron DeSantis was the heavy favorite a month ago and I think he remains that,” said Binder.

And the current president of the Unite States may have just handed DeSantis an additional boost.

“What the governor has done is pretty remarkable so far,” said President Joe Biden to reporters following a joint press conference with DeSantis Wednesday.

Binder said there’s a number of factors that made the statement noteworthy.

“Not only is he the president of the opposite party, but potentially an opponent in less than two years. You know, that’s a pretty big statement. Now, the honeymoon period after the disaster, how long does that last? Does it last a day, a week, a month? If it lasts a month, that’s a problem for Charlie Crist,” said Binder.

Crist’s campaign declined to comment on the president’s statement.

Binder said he’s not surprised.

“Oftentimes, the reaction to the event just drags it out longer and longer,” said Binder.

Ultimately, though, Binder said he anticipates the shelf life of whatever political benefit the president’s praising words may have brought DeSantis will likely be short-lived.

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“I guarantee you Charlie Crist’s campaign isn’t playing that,” said Binder. “Biden’s campaign isn’t playing that sound bite. Is Ron DeSantis’ campaign playing that sound bite? I’m not sure. Cause three weeks from now I’m gonna suspect that Ron DeSantis is back to going after Joe Biden.”