- President Joe Biden campaigned in Florida one week before Election Day.
- He barely mentioned Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who frequently criticizes him.
- Biden was trying to help lagging Democrats who are outnumbered in voter registration in Florida.
MIAMI GARDENS, Florida — President Joe Biden barely mentioned Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis while campaigning in Florida on Tuesday evening, one week out from Election Day.
While Democrats in Florida have criticized numerous contentious policies from DeSantis, Biden instead took a victory lap over his legislative accomplishments, including an infrastructure law, and warned that “Mega-MAGA Republicans” are “a different breed of cat.”
The president did not attack DeSantis over his battle with Disney, his opposition to childhood COVID-19 vaccines, or his efforts to limit the way race, gender, and sexual orientation are taught in schools. Earlier in the day, however, Biden called DeSantis “Donald Trump incarnate” during a 70-person fundraiser in Golden Beach, Florida.
Biden was in Florida stumping for Democrat Charlie Crist, a former US congressman seeking to unseat DeSantis, and for Democratic Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief who’s vying to replace Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.
But rather than take aim at the candidates’ GOP opponents, he reserved most of his criticism for Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who isn’t on the ballot in November but chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, as well as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. Biden even name-called Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who represents Wisconsin, for suggesting that Congress annually approve spending on Medicare and Social Security.
Biden has consistently criticized Scott after he released a blueprint of policy proposals, including having Congress re-approve federal laws every five years. Asked about Biden’s jabs, Chris Hartline, NRSC spokesman, pointed to a new Scott ad that accused Biden of using a loophole to avoid paying as much as $500,000 in taxes.
Biden’s focus wasn’t on DeSantis
Biden’s DeSantis omission on Tuesday evening, at Florida International University, was notable given the possibility DeSantis could challenge him for president in 2024, particularly if former President Donald Trump doesn’t seek the White House again. The governor and the White House have had an adversarial relationship during Biden’s first two years in office.
DeSantis is a favorite for the GOP nomination and is expected to win reelection in Florida next week given that Republican voters outnumber Democrats in the state by more than 300,000. State data show that 40% of Floridians have already cast a vote, with more Republicans voting than Democrats.
Trump is set to campaign with Rubio — but not DeSantis — in Miami on Sunday, two days before the election.
DeSantis will be holding multiple campaign events of his own throughout the weekend. Earlier in the day on Tuesday, he took several shots at Biden during a campaign rally in Escambia County, Florida.
He barely mentions Crist during his bid for reelection, and also rarely talks about Trump.
“Biden is reminding us by coming to Florida that he has failed on inflation, that he has failed at the border, and he has failed on energy prices and energy independence,” DeSantis said at the Tuesday rally.
Appearing on Fox News’s Hannity on Tuesday evening, DeSantis joked that Biden’s presence in Florida represented “an in-kind contribution to my campaign.”
Last week, DeSantis dodged a question about his 2024 plans during his lone debate against Crist, taking a long pause before the timer indicated it was time for him to speak, and saying, “The only worn-out old donkey I want to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist,” he said, referring to the political symbol for Democrats.
The retort had the effect of avoiding the question while bashing Biden, who will be 80 this month, and Crist, 66. DeSantis, 44, is the youngest governor in America.
Taking the stage on Tuesday, Crist said “Ron DeSantis wants to do to America what he has done to Florida.” (A campaign mailer touting DeSantis made the opposite charge, saying that “Charlie Crist will do to Florida what Joe Biden has done to America.”) Crist, who was governor of Florida as a Republican from 2007 to 2011, has run his campaign similar to the way Biden ran in 2020, emphasizing experience and promising to deliver unity.
“Ron is tearing us apart, attacking anyone who doesn’t look like him, doesn’t act like him, doesn’t think like him,” he said Tuesday. Biden in turn praised Crist during his speech, saying “he’ll make an even better governor again because of who he’ll be replacing.”
As for touting Demings, Biden said she would be a key vote in helping to guarantee a national right to abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Rubio has signed onto a bill that would federally ban abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, and when a pregnancy is life-threatening, and that would allow states to make further restrictions.
Biden was initially scheduled to campaign alongside Crist in Florida in Orlando in September but postponed the trip as Hurricane Ian closed in on the state. Demings had not planned to attend that event though it would have been in her district, NBC News reported.
The September trip would have occurred just shortly after DeSantis authorized planes to take Venezuelan migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, a decision the White House has called “cruel.” Biden did not address DeSantis’ immigration actions during Tuesday’s speech.
Biden last visited Florida just under a month ago, after Hurricane Ian devastated the Southwest part of the state, killing more than 100 people. Though Florida Democrats sent notices to reporters accusing DeSantis of doing a poor job at handling the response, Biden praised the governor, saying he’d done a “good job” and that they’d worked “hand in glove.”
DeSantis, too, put partisanship aside and said before the president reached out that “my phone line is open.”