Many unbiased observers of the Florida gubernatorial race would agree that if President Donald Trump had not endorsed Rep. Ron DeSantis, who unlike Adam Putnam is a regular guest on Fox News, the race on the GOP side would look different.
Up until this week, the one debate the two Republicans had was on Fox News — a showcase of national issues that highlighted DeSantis but overlooked Putnam’s encyclopedic knowledge of the state.
Addressing media Wednesday evening after a debate in Jacksonville, we asked Putnam if he resented the uneven playing field on the conservative network, after he sniped that “water issues don’t get you booked on primetime TV.”
“No, I don’t resent it at all,” Putnam said with an edge in his voice. “I’ve been focused on Florida issues.”
“Many times those shows are focused on only national issues. In fact, overwhelmingly on national issues. That’s what the last debate was all about,” Putnam added, his voice brightening.
“Tonight was a good debate. It was all about Florida. And you got to see the distinction between candidates who know what Florida’s issues are, and candidates who only speak in soundbites about Washington’s ways,” Putnam added.
Of course, without the Fox News platform, it is not as certain that President Donald Trump — an avid fan of the network — would have endorsed DeSantis, who Putnam points out wasn’t exactly clinging to Trump during his aborted 2016 Senate bid.
“I think he did it because he’s been watching Ron on TV for a couple of years. Working that, instead of focusing on Florida, instead of making plans for Florida,” Putnam said.
Putnam more than held his own in the debate Wednesday, barbing DeSantis over and over again, often making DeSantis supporters in the live crowd uncomfortable.
But did it matter?
DeSantis could be overheard as he walked out of the building with his wife, Casey Black DeSantis, and Rep. Matt Gaetz saying that he got more texts during the Fox News debate than the WJXT event, which ran throughout the state, except in the pivotal Tampa Bay market.