‘Top Gov’ Tracker Neil W. McCabe Recaps Florida Governor Debates, DeSantis’ Crush of Crist

Live from Music Row, Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed national political correspondent for One America News Neil W. McCabe to the newsmaker line to recap Monday night’s Florida governor debate, where DeSantis ruled over now-Democrat Charlie Crist.

Leahy: We are joined now by our very good friend, formerly the chief political correspondent for The Star News Network, now “Top Gov” tracker for One America News, based in Tallahassee. He interviews and reports on all things Governor Ron DeSantis – Neil W. McCabe. Good morning, Neil.

McCabe: Good morning, Michael. How’s it going?

Leahy: It’s going great. Of course, the original Star panelist Crom Carmichael is in the studio. Crom brought a story to my attention and wants to share it with you, Neil.

Carmichael: Neil, first let me ask you, aren’t you glad that you’re not assigned to be covering Charlie Crist? (Laughter) Boy, I tell you. This is a story from The Western Journal here, which I’m quoting here.

It says in a letter, 37 former aides and close associates of Crist said in no uncertain terms that they’re endorsing Ron DeSantis. That just came out. Have you seen it?

McCabe: Yes. So the debate was Monday with Charlie Crist. That came out Tuesday morning. So it just tells you that the DeSantis campaign is firing on all eight cylinders. They had that teed up and ready to go.

I was at the debate Monday night that was held in beautiful Fort Pierce at the historic Sunrise Theater. And Crom, you’ll be happy to know that Three Dog Night is playing at the Sunrise Theater on December 3rd and tickets are still available.

Carmichael: Oh, wow. I bet that will be a great concert.

Leahy: (Leahy chuckles) What was the debate like, Neil?

McCabe: I’ll tell you, Crist started out early, really aggressive. The guy is down anywhere from 5 to 11 points. We got basically two weeks before the election. This is his shot to lay a glove on DeSantis. Early on, he went after DeSantis on his handling of COVID and Hurricane Ian.

The real charge of Hurricane Ian is the failure to evacuate Fort Myers, which is in Lee County in Southwest Florida. And more than 100 people died in Lee County because they weren’t evacuated on time.

But also they didn’t go door to door and start grabbing people and throwing them in vans, either. But the governor handled that. He was ready for it. He’s a smart guy.

He’s like, hey, two weeks beforehand we thought it was going to Tallahassee or Tampa or Sarasota. Everyone thought it was going to hit between Sarasota and Tampa, which is sort of the central west coast of Florida. And at the last minute, it turned into Fort Myers.

And, you know, he says, we were watching it, and when it turned, we were ready. We did thousands of rescues and we restored the two bridges that were knocked out. We restored electricity.

He made the case. It wasn’t like he didn’t know it was coming. And certainly, his point on COVID-19 was that guys like Charlie Crist supported the lockdowns, which would have been destructive.

There were lockdowns in Florida for a short time. But basically, in states, we’ve seen just businesses destroyed. And he talked about the test scores. Florida did very well in the national test scores that just came out, and DeSantis made the point it was because we kept our schools open. And so that was really the chance.

I’ll say, unlike other Republicans, when Crist went after DeSantis on abortion, he did not say, actually, I love abortion, and abortion is great, like every other Republican across the country. DeSantis said that it’s the taking of a life, and that he supports restrictions on abortion.

And he talked about, there was a woman he had just sworn in as a judge, whose mother in Jamaica went in to have that baby aborted, and something happened, and she ended up giving birth – the child that was sort of accidentally born is now a judge in Florida. And so these are the kind of cases that pro-life politicians used to make, but I guess they’re afraid to now. DeSantis isn’t afraid to do that.

The other thing Crist said was, hey, are you even going to fill out this term? You keep talking, all the debate, you’re talking about Joe Biden. You’re worried about Joe Biden in 2022. Are you also worried about Joe Biden in 2024 because you’re going to run for president?

At least three times Crist brought that up. DeSantis refused to bite. And so basically that was kind of, he just left it sort of hanging there. And at one point, DeSantis said he keeps talking about Joe Biden, but the only worn-out old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist.

Leahy: Oh, that is such a great line.

Carmichael: That may be the best line in a debate that I can ever remember. Even better than Reagan.

McCabe: That was a stake in the heart.

Leahy: A stake in the heart. Now, Neil, I’m guessing your assessment, then, is that Crist goes into the debate down, what, 6 to 11 points, depending upon which poll you look at. Does he come out of the debate better, worse, or the same?

McCabe: Yes. He just didn’t make a difference. The problem is, for Crist, and this is the strategic problem, was all the pro-abortion people are with him. And all the people who are following and blaming DeSantis for the people who died in Lee County, they’re already with him.

He needed to reach out to the Independents, and even Republicans who voted for Crist. DeSantis won by less than one percentage point or one and a half percentage points against the mayor of Tallahassee. It was really close.

I think Trump had, like, three rallies for DeSantis in the last month. If you remember that 2018 campaign, there was a lot going on, but Trump made an effort to sort of drag DeSantis over the finish line.

Now DeSantis has the lead. He’s sitting on it. Nothing changed. Nobody left the theater that night thinking, wow, it’s a new race.

Leahy: And so we still have one week and six days until the midterm elections. Is there anything on the horizon that you can see or think of that would change the currently projected outcome that DeSantis wins this race easily?

McCabe: No. And I think the big problem for Crist is that DeSantis has raised over $150 million, which is a record for any governor. Crist was supposed to go on the air with like, a $10 to $20 million ad buy in the last month. That fundraising never showed up. And so he’s stuck.

He hasn’t been able to go on the air. And so it’s been a while. He was the Republican governor of Florida 10 years ago, but he’s been a congressman outside of Tampa. He doesn’t even have the name recognition that he used to have. And so he needed to go on the air.

He needed to attack. He needed to have ads talking about what a great guy he is. He’s really a no-show. And so the Democrats are there doing triage.

If they’re going to spend $5, $10 million dollars in the last two weeks of a campaign, are they going to give it to a hopeful in New York to try to save the governor of New York, or are they going to throw it against DeSantis, who’s got a $150 million war chest?

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Ron DeSantis” by Ron DeSantis.
















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