Joe Henderson: Upcoming debate is Val Demings’ best and last chance to catch Marco Rubio

Demings consistently trails in the polls with time running out before the election.

While Val Demings and her supporters would like to believe otherwise, polls say the U.S. Senate race in Florida is Marco Rubio’s to lose.

That’s the backdrop as they both meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. in their only debate. With just two weeks until Election Day, it’s Demings’ last and best chance to sway undecided voters, assuming enough of those voters remain to make a difference.

Demings is smart and tough, and I won’t be surprised if she repeatedly scores in the debate. Rubio has been known to melt under hot lights and underperform.

But would it matter? Demings needs to believe it does, and Rubio gave her several lines of attack.

It starts with the Republican party’s embrace of lies and bigotry. The 2020 election wasn’t stolen, despite you-know-who’s repeated claims to the contrary. And it’s true that Rubio did vote to approve President Joe Biden’s electors.

But while some members of his party took positions that marginalize just about everyone outside the GOP base, he has largely been a bystander.

Rubio called a bill to protect same-sex marriage a “stupid waste of time.” Demings would do well to remind him of that. He supported Gov. Ron DeSantis’ divisive “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

At times, Rubio advocated for cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

However, Florida, as we know, has trended red for a while now. That gives Rubio a built-in edge to go along with incumbency, although, with his record of consistently missing large numbers of votes, it might be worth Demings’ time to ask if he really wants the job.

Rubio, meanwhile, can attach Demings to a sluggish economy and an unpopular President.

While Demings has focused on letting voters know who she is (a cop on the beat) and what she stands for (abortion rights), Rubio went all in for name-calling.

Demings isn’t just liberal, she is dangerously radical, according to one pro-Rubio ad. And, as a Democrat in the U.S. House, she voted along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s agenda.


It’s possible that last word — yawn — more or less sums up where Floridians are when it comes to this race. According to federal election records, Demings has spent nearly $60 million on this race, about double what Rubio spent.

Her ads have blanketed TV for months, stressing that she’s a different kind of Democrat. She’s tough on crime and would stand up to those in her party who want to defund the police.

After a while, though, people tune that out because they’ve heard it all. And since they’re voting for a U.S. Senator, not a top cop, I don’t believe that “cop” message resonated.

The numbers back that up. Rubio has held a consistent 5- to 8-point lead throughout the campaign.

I guess we’ll know if that’s true after the debate.

Even if Demings “wins” the debate, she needs people besides the insatiable political junkies to tune in.

It won’t be for lack of opportunity if they don’t. Ten large Florida markets will show the debate. It will also air on statewide public radio and be available on the TV websites and Facebook pages.

But the 7-8 p.m. time block is also when Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy air in many markets. People watch those shows out of habit, and if the debate hasn’t registered on their radar — or maybe even if it has — well, you know.

Politics can have that effect on people.

Still, this is Demings’ last, best chance to take the campaign beyond the dueling ads and into substance. It’s a chance to define herself against the caricature Rubio painted.

And if Rubio can avoid gaffes or horrific blunders, it’s a chance to all but wrap up the election.

Stay tuned.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Andrew

    October 17, 2022 at 7:54 pm

    The republicans going to sweep all the seats in Florida. Rubio will win by a good margin. DeSantis is going to destroy Charlie Christ. Anette Toddeo is going to lose by 1 point to 2points.
    Dems historically do not show up to vote in mid term’s republicans do. The economy is whats on voters minds they could give a shit less about don’t say gay and abortion …. Black voters are not motivated and with out an 80 percent plus turn out from this demographic dems have no chance. Independents are breaking Republican by 20 points.
    But the Democratic Party will probably get behind Charlie again 4 years from now . What a joke!!!! I’m leaving this shit party and going independent…

  • Tom

    October 17, 2022 at 8:09 pm

    Senator Rubio is a world class Senator on multiple issues. Defense, Foreign policy, China, Russia, Central American despots, Socialists, and Communists.

    Rubio is the most effective “legislator” in both parties in Congress, House and Senate. His days of serving as Florida House Speaker allows him to craft micro legislation, like the covid rescue act, and the HUD bill for Florida.
    Passed and provided millions in housing for Floridians in need due to him.

    America is in dire straits, Florida’s freedoms are the shining light, compared to the dimming light in DC, due to the incompetent, ice cream eating blundering boob.

    Dumings is still looking for her gun, did the orange mayor/hubby find it yet?

    Marco Rubio is a Senator for America!

    • Joe Corsin

      October 17, 2022 at 10:32 pm

      Republicans are a national security threat and Russian assets. Trump supporters were useful idiots for the Kremlin. And you sir are a dumbass…a tropical 2 ocean windcane.

      • Tom

        October 18, 2022 at 5:37 am

        Such a pathetic moron Joey Corsin.
        Even Obummer said get over Trump.
        Sanders and Carville said get off of abortion. You and Mary lou are empty.

        You clearly are a pathetic lunatic. Your whole discussion is past potus.

        Fake Hoax’s dominate your lies.
        All Proven in court.
        Fake paid hoax’s. Mueller, Steele, Russia, impeachment, fake letter, fake Vinmann, Dansheko, Adam Schiff head, Weissman pit bull.
        So many hoax’s, so many lies.
        Delusional idiot Joey Corsin.
        LMAO, get a life!

        • Joe Corsin

          October 18, 2022 at 8:13 am

          Insurrection and election theft plus 40,000 lies is not fake news. Past POTUS is a fugitive from justice. Just goes to show you people lack judgement and morality and don’t want to be accountable for your actions. You people are on the sht list.

        • Joe Corsin

          October 18, 2022 at 8:23 am

          DeSantis is Kim Jong Un of Florida. God and baby Jesus save us from this far right menace. God save us from these terrorists.

    • KenW

      October 18, 2022 at 6:57 pm

      I love a good parody account.

      Rubio is the stupidest person in the Senate. Democrats can usually find a candidate even worse than the Republicans, but against Rubio they had to settle for equally horrible.

  • Impeach Biden

    October 17, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    Rubio will hammer her on her votes in Congress which were all pro “wicked witch of the west”Pelosi. Then he will tie her to the Joe Biden failed policies on the economy, Southern Border, defund the police, etc. She is soooooooo done. Bye bye Val. 8 November.

    • Elliott Offen

      October 17, 2022 at 9:41 pm

      Because a lot of stupid people have fallen for GOP culture wars. Same stupid people who donated to Trump so he could shovel money to the rich and rip everyone else off. Anyone who votes for these empty suit grifters and makes under $200K a year is a stupid bstard.

      • Impeach Biden

        October 18, 2022 at 8:52 am

        Culture wars? That would be your party. Deplorables, racist’s, fascist’s, etc. etc. You and your party can’t campaign on the economy. You and your party can’t campaign on the removal of the Southern Border. You and your party can’t campaign on city crime and the defund movement. You and your party can’t campaign on the Ukraine debacle. The only thing you and your party have is abortion and personal attacks. Let’s see how that works out for you and your party on November 8.

        • Joe Corsin

          October 18, 2022 at 9:26 am

          Well most of you are deplorable neo nazis and shills for billionaires. If the shoe fits wear it asshole!🍩 That and you people have the collective IQ of an ape. Hell, an ape has more sense than to vote for Trump.

          • Impeach Biden

            October 20, 2022 at 3:56 pm

            DeSantis is more powerful than Jesus now. Ever since Trump & DeSantis came along I started to see that Jesus was actually a pretty rotten liberal.

  • Tom

    October 17, 2022 at 8:31 pm

    Agree impeach!
    Dumings is extremist lefty. Pelosi puppet.
    Rubio is a world class Senator.
    Best legislator in Congress! Both sides of aisle.
    He makes a difference for Floridians and America! Biden’s 37% Florida approval is a 1000 Pd weight. I doubt Dumings will show up in Broward for POTUS.

    We need more Rubios!

    • Charlie Crist

      October 17, 2022 at 10:30 pm

      👆Vote for me. I’ll sling this idiot around by his hair…put him through a car window. A spinning round house kick to the face for good measure.

  • Tom

    October 17, 2022 at 8:31 pm

    Agree impeach!
    Dumings is extremist lefty. Pelosi puppet.
    Rubio is a world class Senator.
    Best legislator in Congress! Both sides of aisle.
    He makes a difference for Floridians and America! Biden’s 37% Florida approval is a 1000 Pd weight. I doubt Dumings will show up in Broward for POTUS.

    We need more Rubios!

    • Ocean Joe

      October 17, 2022 at 9:43 pm

      About prepping for the debate:
      Make sure Marco has plenty of water.
      Val has bigger hands than Trump so don’t mention it.
      Relax, Chris Christie won’t be there.

      When Liz Cheney said, “There will come a day when Mr. Trump is gone, but your dishonor will remain,” she was talking about Marco.

      • Tom

        October 17, 2022 at 11:05 pm

        Ocean you have stooped to the lowest of lows. You only excluded your pathetic George Wallace reference.

        When you make a deal with the Cheney’s, and when Liz make a deal with devil Pelosi, no return. They wanted to impeach her father, Dick Cheney who was Satan! Before Trump.

        As for the brainless reference by corsin, I’ll reference the fake hoax’s.
        Mueller, Steele, Comey, Adam Schiff head, Weismann, impeachment hoax’s. All fake, FISA abuses.

        Idiot Elliot offen, you pathetic ignorant failure. All your whining of grifters, the welfare state is the grifter program. It has enslaved peoples to govts.

        Free market, supply side tax cuts is freedom. Florida with DeSantis and Marco are freedom. Florida people’s are freedom.

        Adam Schiff is a despicable being, Liz Cheney is finished.

        Dumings has no chance, as I artfully outlined above, Marco is the best legislator in Congress. World class.

        • Joe Corsin

          October 18, 2022 at 8:15 am

          World class robot and water slinger. Even Trump made fun of the SOB. You need Val Demings charred anchovy face sit, Nikki Fried golden shower, Fat Cammack bare buttocks pulverize.

  • Netpayment

    October 18, 2022 at 6:41 am

    I have gained $44k simply in a month and a 1/2 way of means of quite simply operating activity from my laptop. Immediately while misplaced my remaining (qcr) business, I become very troubled & in the end I actually have located this on line project sporting this out I can manipulate to earn hundreds dwelling at home. Each character is

    capable of try this activity and get more money on line going this article———->>> Just Tab On My ID Name

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn