By Jim DeFede

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Describing Gov. Ron DeSantis as an uncaring person, Charlie Crist pledged to “unilaterally” take federal Medicaid expansion funds to cover more than 800,000 people in Florida currently without health insurance.

“I think you’d try to take it unilaterally first by executive order,” Crist said during an interview with CBS Miami. “I think that’s fully appropriate.”

READ MORE: Police: Miami Man Kills Father, Critically Injures Mother Found With 'Knife Blade Stuck In Her Back'

For years, DeSantis, as well as his predecessor, Rick Scott, and the Republican-controlled legislature have refused to even consider taking the Medicaid expansion offered under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Under the program, the federal government would cover at least 90 percent of the costs to provide health insurance to individuals who cannot afford insurance on their own but who are not poor enough to receive Medicaid.

“So, if it’s by executive order or legislative fiat, whatever it takes, it has to be done,” Crist said, “because, you know, we’re all children of God. And to not have that kind of empathy and compassion, that Joe Biden shows every day, if you’re governor of Florida, you shouldn’t be in the office. It’s wrong. It’s wrong.”

Asked if he believed DeSantis was an uncaring individual, Crist said: “Sure looks like it. You know, it pains me to say that I would never want any governor of Florida to be an uncaring person. But, you know, don’t judge him by his words, judge him by his actions. He’s not taken the money for those 800,000 poor people.”

Crist’s comments on Medicaid expansion offer an insight into the campaign he will wage against DeSantis if he were the Democratic nominee. He will argue Floridians deserve better than DeSantis, who has had a difficult time expressing empathy.

Crist disagreed Florida has moved politically to the right, since he last ran statewide in 2014.

READ MORE: Gov. DeSantis Wants Facebook Investigated For Election Interference

“No, I think Florida is just as compassionate as she always has been,” he said. “And I and I think that the people of our state are good people, good, decent people. They want to have health care for the poor in our state. They want to make sure that our children, whether they go to an expensive private school or a decent public school, that they get a great education so that they can be successful in their own life. I believe that they all want to protect our beautiful beaches and therefore our economy. You know, most people really do want the same thing. Sometimes it’s just a matter of style and sometimes it’s a matter of good ideas and communicating with them effectively.”

Then why did Donald Trump win Florida so easily in 2020?

“Well, I guess more people on that day decided they wanted to vote for him,” he said.

Crist, who announced he was running on Tuesday, has also criticized DeSantis for his handling of COVID-19. Crist said DeSantis has failed to show any real compassion for those who died from the virus and instead has been travelling around the state “pounding his chest and saying what a great job [he’s] done.”

“He never said it’s the right thing for everybody to wear a mask; that never really happened,” Crist added. “He didn’t advocate social distancing.”

Crist initially sidestepped questions on whether DeSantis deserved credit for shutting down the state’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities – a move many experts believe saved lives.

MORE NEWS: Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo Calls Out Commissioners In Scathing Memo Ahead Of No-Confidence Vote

Pressed on whether DeSantis deserves credit for protecting older Floridians, Crist said: “Maybe so. Maybe so. I mean, you know, it’s good to get a couple of things right, but it’s better to do more right.”

Jim DeFede