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Challenger DeSantis will rally behind Biden, but the Senate candidate won’t

MIAMI — President Joe Biden will travel to Florida next week to campaign with Charlie Crist as he tries to unseat Governor Ron DeSantis in a battleground state that has increasingly become a Republican stronghold.

But Democratic Senate candidate Val Demings will not be there Tuesday to meet with the president in her hometown of Orlando.

The two candidates’ diverging whereabouts say as much about their respective campaigns as it does about the Democrats’ approach-or-avoid conflict with the president, whose approval ratings remain submerged as he nonetheless regains his popularity. and begins to embark on the electoral campaign in the final. weeks before the November 8 midterm elections.

Democratic candidates across the country have either tiptoed or kissed Biden, depending on their races. For months, there have been clear signs of tension between the White House and battleground Democrats: Biden sought to trumpet his legislative victories, but Democrats in close contests still outperformed him in the polls and either played down their appearances with the president either avoided him altogether.

In Florida, Crist has a tougher race than Demings. He trails DeSantis by a wider margin than Demings in his matchup against Sen. Marco Rubio, according to recent polls. Demings also has about as much campaign money as Rubio, while Crist faces an incumbent with $120 million in hand, a record for any statewide race in the country.

Given the size of the state and its 10 expensive media markets, Crist needs Biden to at least get free media exposure, said Steve Vancore, a Florida Democratic pollster.

“Val Demings doesn’t need the money and attention that Charlie Crist has. Therefore, she might look at the polls and say, ‘I need to have cross voters, and Joe Biden is under water,'” Vancore said.

A Suffolk University poll, conducted for USA Today and released Wednesday, highlighted the differences between the two Florida Democrats. Demings trailed Rubio by 4 percentage points, Crist trailed DeSantis by 7 points (with the margin of error for both at just over 4 percentage points), and Biden’s approval ratings were upside down. : 40% of Florida voters overall had favorable opinions of the president, compared to 54% who had unfavorable opinions.

But there was a stark divide among undecided voters: Only 16% viewed Biden favorably, compared to 58% who held unfavorable views, said David Paleologos, the Suffolk pollster.

“The calculation for Crist is ‘I lost 7 points; I have to win an inside right here in this game of poker,’ and maybe if Biden’s numbers keep going up — and they’re going up — it’ll be a wise move then,” Paleologos said. “But it’s a risk he has to take to get the media attention on him.

The Suffolk poll also showed DeSantis had higher approval ratings than Biden, and he outplayed former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical game in Florida.

Trump won Florida by about 3 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election.

In a statement to NBC News, Crist said, “Florida is on the front lines in the fight to protect women’s freedoms and preserve our democracy. President Biden knows that, that’s why he’s coming and why I’m proud to host him.

NBC News has requested comment from the White House.

Crist recently resigned from his congressional seat to campaign full-time.

Demings, who retained her House seat, has made her work on Capitol Hill a feature of her campaign, and she said she will be in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, even though the House is not conducting formal business that day. -the.

While Biden’s poll numbers are rising, he’s still in negative territory, making Crist’s enthusiasm for a Biden visit all the rarer.

Before Josh Shapiro, the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania governor, appeared with Biden at an event late last month, his campaign made it clear that it would be “in his official capacity” as Attorney General of the state. And Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor, first distanced himself from Biden at a Labor Day event in Pittsburgh before posing for photos with the president.

Meanwhile, Democrats like Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada and Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan have sought to distinguish themselves from Biden. They both blasted his decision to cancel federally-backed student loans, saying it did nothing to help working-class residents who weren’t going to college and didn’t solve the fundamental problem of affordability of higher education.

The Florida dynamic also played out recently in Wisconsin, where Biden attacked Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. But Johnson’s Democratic opponent, Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, was not there to hear him. Instead, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who is in a close race with Republican Tim Michels, appeared in the Labor Day lineup with the president, but only after an earlier hubbub in which the governor’s office allegedly closed a request from the White House for a joint appearance in July.

Crist also had the experience of avoiding presidents.

In 2006, when he was the state’s top Republican attorney general, Crist shunned his party’s unpopular leader at the time, President George W. Bush. Crist won hands down. In 2014, Crist ran for governor as a Democrat in a comeback bid, but he decided not to hold a rally with President Barack Obama. Crist narrowly lost this election.

“He learned his lesson,” said a former adviser, who declined to speak publicly to divulge private conversations. “The thing is, Charlie knows he can’t outrun the president, he shouldn’t outrun the president, and he’s running a campaign like Biden did to bring decency back to government against radical Republicans like DeSantis.”

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