In an hour-long debate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Democrat Charlie Crist squared off on issues like abortion, the response to Hurricane Ian, the state’s ongoing culture wars, and the up-and-coming Republican’s future political aspirations. A few standout moments may still inspire Democrats in this state.
Crist approached the Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce, Florida, down in the polls and practically out of campaign funds, with almost nothing left to lose. He frequently forced DeSantis on the defensive over the divisive platform that has propelled the Republican into GOP fame.
Building momentum for the remaining weeks of the Florida race and damaging DeSantis’ national brand were Crist’s two main goals on Monday. DeSantis is considering running against former President Donald Trump in the presidential primaries while still seeking reelection as governor.
DeSantis mostly maintained his position in the face of Crist’s attacks, occasionally grinning noticeably or putting on a fake smile while adhering to his talking points and delivering a string of precisely timed comments. Compared to his carefully choreographed news conferences designed to highlight his aggressive personality, DeSantis seemed less at home on the debate stage.
It was a typical performance from a front-runner, and DeSantis is undoubtedly one with a comfortable lead and nearly $100 million in the bank, despite the fact that he has defied expectations to move up the GOP’s presidential power rankings. Here are five lessons learned from Monday’s one and only governor of Florida debate.
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DeSantis won’t pledge to serve the whole four years.
In the debate, Crist sought to create a moment that would change the conversation about race and inspire not only Florida Democrats but also individuals throughout the nation who wanted to check DeSantis’ national ascent.
The evening provided many gubernatorial opportunities for Crist to do that, with DeSantis and Crist frequently on opposite sides of a split screen and with a boisterous crowd cheering over the protestations of a debate moderator. In one such instance, Crist made an effort to persuade DeSantis to promise to serve the entire four years if he wins in November.
DeSantis wouldn’t budge despite thinking about running for president in 2024.
DeSantis opened the discussion by contrasting President Joe Biden’s ideas to those of Crist. In response, Crist asserted that DeSantis was concentrating on Biden because he intended to challenge the President in 2024.
“I want to ask you a question. You’re vying to become governor. Why don’t you look the Floridians in the eyes and promise them that if you’re reelected, you’ll hold office for a full four years? said Crist. “Yes” or “no”?
A protracted quiet resulted from DeSantis’s blank face and lack of response. Then Crist said, “It’s not a difficult question. It’s a reasonable inquiry. He won’t reveal it to you. Liz Quirantes, a WPEC journalist and debate moderator, told the audience that the candidates had not agreed to take questions from each other directly on stage.
DeSantis finally spoke after Crist’s time was out.
DeSantis said, “I know Charlie’s interested in talking about 2024, about Joe Biden. “However, I just want to be really clear. Charlie Crist is the only arthritic old donkey I want to retire to pasture.
DeSantis ponders abortion
DeSantis declared in a statement that he would “defend life” in Florida after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June, but he has since neglected to specify what that action would be. When Quirantes questioned DeSantis about what week Florida abortion access should be banned, the governor responded that he was “proud” of the state’s 15-week prohibition, which he had earlier this year signed into law, but he would not say if he would back legislation to further limit access.
DeSantis replied, “I just think we’re better when everybody counts. “I realise not everyone will experience a flawless birth, but I want everyone to have a chance,” the speaker said.
Crist called the state’s new 15-week restriction “callous” and inhumane” and blasted the response for failing to address the question. In cases when a pregnancy poses a “severe risk” to the mother or where two doctors confirm the diagnosis in writing, the law permits exceptions for fatal foetal abnormalities. No exceptions are made for rape, incest, or human trafficking.
In response to the governor’s law, Crist stated, “We just learned about a case of a middle school girl who was an incest victim and became impregnated because of the bill you signed.” She needed to travel to two or three states to take care of this problem.
DeSantis alleged that Crist only backed abortion rights for political reasons. He pointed out that Crist frequently saw himself as being on the opposing side of the abortion argument while he was a Republican. Former Republican governor Crist, who defected from the party in 2010, once referred to himself as “pro-life.”
Is this a sincere change of heart, or what? Or is this a man who will change his mind when necessary in order to maintain his political career? said DeSantis. “I believe we all understand the response to that query.”
DeSantis argues for his most contentious deeds
Even though he avoided discussing abortion, DeSantis was more willing to defend his other policies, which have attracted frequent criticism and legal action from Democrats, immigrant rights organisations, LGBTQ rights groups, and their allies, but have also gained wide support from the GOP base in Florida and elsewhere.
DeSantis compared “gender-affirming care” to “chemically castrating young males” in reference to new state regulations that forbid specific transgender health care for children, adding that “a lot of kids go through a lot of different things. Most of the dysphoria goes away by the time they reach adulthood.
“It’s awful that it comes to this but what we did put this issue front and centre,” he stated of the planes he organised that transported migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
DeSantis stated of his decision to exclude critical race theory from the classroom, “I don’t want to encourage them to hate our country. I don’t want to instil hatred in young people, and the only way to end racial discrimination is to stop yourself from doing it. Crist made a remark that appeared to be directed at much of DeSantis’ justification of these points: “He talks about it like it’s fun. It isn’t. These are complex concerns that require wise leadership.
The test for hurricane
For the majority of their two years working together in Washington, Crist and Biden have been on the same page about the President’s agenda. Crist, though, made it clear on Monday that he disagrees with Biden’s evaluation of DeSantis’ hurricane handling.
In Fort Myers Beach, where Hurricane Ian largely damaged beachfront property, Biden told reporters during a joint appearance earlier this month that DeSantis’ response to the destruction was “quite extraordinary.” DeSantis, though, was charged by Crist with abandoning people in danger.
On the Friday before the storm’s arrival, DeSantis attended a high school football game, according to Crist, who said he was “AWOL for about 24 hours” at a time when Lee County might have been evacuated.
“And as a result, 100 individuals pass away?” said Crist. “That record is not good. And that isn’t effective leadership. Crist, according to DeSantis, was attempting to “politicise” the response. According to DeSantis, “Our message was to listen to your locals; it’s ultimately a local decision.” “I support each of the local counties. They stood up, put in a lot of effort, and used the knowledge at hand to make the greatest choices.
The pandemic chaos
Through his handling of the Covid-19 outbreak, DeSantis rose to political prominence, and it continues to be a major theme of his stump speeches in Florida and elsewhere. DeSantis asserted that “it would have thrown millions of Floridians into chaos” if Crist had been a governor at the time.
And I can assure you that even though Charlie Crist and his congressional allies pushed for your seclusion, I lifted you up, DeSantis remarked. “I defended your legal rights. I made sure you could support yourself. I worked so hard to make sure we had all of our kids in school five days a week and I made sure you could run your enterprises.
Crist made an effort to directly counter DeSantis’ impression of strength. “Over 6 million of our fellow Floridians have acquired Covid under your leadership, Ron, and we have one of the highest death rates in America,” he stated. That’s certainly nothing to brag about or be proud of.
When Crist referred to DeSantis as “the only governor in the history of Florida” to shut down schools and businesses, he made a reference to the early stages of the 2020 pandemic, when the Sunshine State, like the majority of the nation, followed pandemic mitigation measures encouraged by the Trump administration. This added some baffling logic to the discussion. Crist said, “It’s necessary to follow common sense, do what’s right, and listen to science. You don’t just stop functioning right away.
However, those mitigating measures, such as social withdrawal and a halt to commercial operations, were at the time advised by scientists. And in a letter urging DeSantis to issue a stay-at-home order in March 2020, weeks into the pandemic, Crist was one of 13 Florida Democrats in Congress.
DeSantis said that he reopened schools in defiance of teacher unions, a significant Crist ally. DeSantis stated, “We just received the Nation’s Report Card, which includes the findings from all 50 states. Florida is third nationally in fourth-grade reading and fourth nationally in fourth-grade math. If we had permitted Charlie Crist and his associates to lock our children out of school, as they did in California and New York, that would not have occurred. In Florida, we did it properly.