Marco Rubio, Val Demings bring the heat in their only Senate debate

Rubio Demings debate
Sharp words, personal attacks predominated for the full hour.

The two major party candidates in one of the most high-profile Senate races of the year litigated hot button issues for an hour in Lake Worth in their only scheduled debate.

After months of back and forth through ads and interviews, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, finally were able to make their arguments in person, and they made the most of the opportunities from opening bell to close.

One such point of contention: the current affordability crisis. Asked to respond to increasing inflation, Rubio said “the first thing we have to do is stop spending that kind of money,” speaking of pandemic relief packages.

“They were warned. The Democrats were warned … if you do this, you’ll fire up inflation,” Rubio said, before tagging Demings as a supporter “of some of these crazy policies that are coming from the Left” such as a tax increase on crude oil.

On stopping inflation? “I think it begins by winning this election and getting people like that out of office,” Rubio added, gesturing to Demings in the first heated moment of the debate.

“The Senator, who has never run anything but his mouth, wouldn’t know anything about helping people and being there for them when they are in trouble,” Demings said, regarding pandemic relief.

She added that there were “problems” in the CARES Act, including the Paycheck Protection Program for which Rubio takes credit.

“Some say it was poorly written, some say it didn’t help the people it was supposed to, it didn’t save the jobs it was supposed to,” Demings said, asserting that Rubio “played politics” with the Paycheck Protection Program.

From there, an agitated Rubio said Republicans approved the program when “Democrats were sitting at home, in their pajamas doing Zoom calls,” before calling the plan a “bipartisan victory” that got “unanimous support.”

“If it hadn’t been done, there would have been a meltdown in this country … a depression in this country,” Rubio said, before again contending Demings was ineffective in Congress.

“I’m really disappointed in you,” Demings said. “Because I think there was a time when you did not lie in order to win. I don’t know what happened to you.”

The vitriol continued throughout the abortion discussion. Rubio, who backs a national abortion ban at the 15-week mark of gestation, said he was “100% pro life” and that the “extremist on abortion” in this campaign is Demings.

“She supports taxpayer-funded abortion, on demand, until the moment of birth,” Rubio claimed, leading to another incredulous Demings counter.

“How gullible do you think the voters of Florida are?” she asked, saying that Rubio supported a ban with no exceptions for rape and incest (though as he noted that’s not a condition of the current bill in the Senate), and that the “health of the mother” is “kind of a side issue” to the Senator.

Demings said she supported abortion “until the time of viability,” which left Rubio, who wanted a more specific answer, frustrated.

From there, the candidates bickered about the nature of democracy itself.

Asked if she would accept the results of the 2022 election, Rubio said he “never denied an election.”

“I’m not like Stacey Abrams in Georgia,” Rubio said, alluding to her disputing her loss in 2018.

State issues, including a hypothetical collapse of the Florida home insurance industry, also were broached.

“You don’t want the federal government involved in property insurance, believe me,” Rubio said, before blaming Florida’s insurance issues on “the cost of litigation” tied to “roof claims.”

“We are facing a looming crisis. I think it’s something that the state has to wrap its arms around,” Rubio said.

Demings, conversely, suggested the federal government should “care about what citizens in Florida and try to do something about it.”

“Marco Rubio has spent more time at the state level than anybody on this stage,” Demings retorted. “So what in the heck did he do about it when he was the Speaker of the House? He’s been in elected office since 1998.”

Rubio noted that he oversaw a Special Session under Gov. Charlie Crist, and said that he cared about the issue, noting he’s going to pay “eight or nine thousand dollars more” this year.

The debate also touched on Rubio’s purported reason for entering the Senate race after losing his bid for the Presidency in 2016: the Pulse nightclub shooting.

“You’ve done nothing to help address gun violence and get dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people,” Demings said, noting that Florida has a ban on the sale of assault weapons to people under the age of 21 after the Parkland massacre of 2018, but that Rubio won’t support a similar federal measure.

Rubio said that “Americans have the Second Amendment right to protect themselves,” noting his proposal for a “bipartisan red flag law” wasn’t strong enough for Democrats like Demings. Demings accused Rubio of trying to “pull the Second Amendment out” to obscure the issue.

The debate moved on from there, with Rubio asked his position on U.S. Sen. Rick Scott’s 12-point plan to “rescue America,” which includes language that would subject entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare to regular review by Congress.

“That’s not my plan. That’s Sen. Scott. He’s not shy. You should ask him,” Rubio said, before shifting to an attack on the “People’s Budget” that Demings voted for.

“Socialist, socialist, crazy, Marxist … we’ve seen this show before,” Demings said, contending that Rubio referred to Scott’s plan as “good ideas” before being confronted on the debate stage.

“There’s never been a vote on Rick Scott’s idea,” Rubio countered. “I don’t know what word you prefer: socialist, Marxist, crazy. I’m open to suggestions.”

After a spirited discussion of Scott, the topic turned to a potential nuclear escalation in Ukraine, and after close to an hour of sharp disagreement, the two agreed that a U.S. role in the region is necessary, in one of the rare moments of accord between the two.

“We cannot afford to have a nuclear attack and the United States has to do everything in its power to prevent that from happening,” Demings said.

Rubio urged that America be “very wary,” contending that Russia “could attack a NATO airport in Poland.”

“If Poland is attacked, there has to be an immediate response,” Demings agreed.

The spin started during the debate, and partisans chimed in almost immediately after, predicting victory for their candidate.

“While Demings pleaded for an undeserved promotion, Senator Marco Rubio brilliantly showcased his record of fighting for Floridians. Demings’ unyielding support of Joe Biden’s disastrous agenda makes her the perfect fit for early retirement from politics,” asserted RNC Spokeswoman Julia Friedland.

“Floridians have seen tonight just how radical and out-of-touch Val Demings truly is,” asserted Sen. Scott in his capacity as National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair.

“The decision is clear. Marco Rubio never stops working to represent the best interests of Florida families. He has fought for small businesses and veterans across the state as well as freedom and democracy across the globe. Florida families are rejecting Joe Biden’s radical agenda and they don’t want another Washington Democrat like Val Demings who votes with (Nancy) Pelosi and Biden 100% of the time. This November we will keep Florida red.”

RPOF Chairman Joe Gruters said, “Demings has been nothing but a rubberstamp for the Democrats, and we can’t afford to have another vote for their disastrous agenda in the Senate. Marco won the debate and he’s going to win on November 8.”

RPOF National Committeewoman Kathy King added, “Rubio demonstrated a sharp and articulate command of the facts about the most significant foreign and domestic policy challenges of our lifetime. Meanwhile, Val Demings was the victim of her own crime: supporting the Pelosi policies that Floridians reject.”

Demings’ campaign declared victory as well: “Tonight, Chief Val Demings held Marco Rubio accountable for failing to show up for work, and hurting Floridians when he does. Demings closed the debate by highlighting her personal story and making the case clear: this race is about a cop on the beat versus a career politician who doesn’t even show up for work.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • Karen

    October 18, 2022 at 8:34 pm

    Val Demmings is scary!

    • David

      October 18, 2022 at 9:17 pm

      She would be to “Karen” like you! Way to Go, Chief Val !!
      You kicked little Marco’s absentee *SS
      tonight !!!!! 💁🏻‍♂️👂🥊

      • Sam

        October 19, 2022 at 12:15 am

        David – were you watching the same debate , apparently not. Val will retire early as a politician and rightfully so. Val is a rubber stamp to Lets Go Brandon and Crazy Nancy…

        • Mr. Haney

          October 19, 2022 at 6:54 pm

          As opposed to the rubber stamp empty suit Rubio is?

          Give me a break. Republicans are Americans biggest problem.

      • Jane Davis

        October 19, 2022 at 3:49 am

        It’s plain to see Rubio is there only for the power and millions in payoffs. What in the real world does he even do?

        • Mr. Haney

          October 19, 2022 at 7:07 pm

          He’s never had a real job so that’s a good question.

  • Beth Anthony

    October 18, 2022 at 9:05 pm

    She is a loose canon. No one ever mentions that she left her loaded service revolver unlocked in her patrol car and someone stole it

    • Joe Corsin

      October 18, 2022 at 11:15 pm

      Trump many thefts, sexual assaults, a few rapes, 40,000 lies, election crimes, incitement of terrorism using lies, Espionage Act violations,..God knows what else they will uncover over the next decade. But Demings is a loose cannon? You people need impatient psychiatric treatment.

    • Mr. Haney

      October 19, 2022 at 6:56 pm

      Did she show up for work more than 25% of the timr? That’s better than Rubio who is useless.

      Rubio must think yelling means something other than you’re a blowhard.

    • Donna

      October 28, 2022 at 8:26 am

      Beth, I keep asking the same question, but the Dems just turn their heads to facts. Val Demings wasn’t some rookie police officer when she left her city issued patrol car unlocked, she was the Chief of Police. Yet, she literally did what she accused Rubio of doing by putting her dangerous, loaded weapons in the hands of dangerous criminals.

  • Cheryl Kelly

    October 18, 2022 at 9:09 pm

    Rubio is worthless. I like her comment about never running anything but his mouth. Very, very ineffective senator. Needs to be ejected.

    • John S.

      October 18, 2022 at 9:19 pm

      Florida is the best “run” State in the Country and people like you want to turn it into another trash heap like NY, CA, WA and so on.
      Would be better if you just moved to one of those dumps.

      • Mr. Haney

        October 19, 2022 at 6:57 pm

        You don’t squat about Florida John.

    • Sam

      October 19, 2022 at 12:17 am

      Cheryl – do your research before following Val’s lies…
      Senator has too many accomplishments to list!!

  • Jose

    October 18, 2022 at 9:10 pm

    Unleashed the KAREN!!!

    Rubio won by just the not being so angry and out of control as Demings.

    • Mr. Haney

      October 19, 2022 at 6:57 pm

      Rubio proved he’s a useless idiot who thinks he’s entitled.

  • Fidget Fighter

    October 18, 2022 at 9:18 pm

    The faster Rubio talked, the less he said. He’s a hollow man.

    • Warren Wright

      October 18, 2022 at 10:12 pm

      Marco Rubio made salient points on every issue, often citing his record, and encouraging fact checks. Val Demings has no record to cite, and offered more emotion than intellect.

      • Mr. Haney

        October 19, 2022 at 6:58 pm

        Rubio made no points. He made excuses. You don’t have a clue.

  • Tom

    October 18, 2022 at 9:31 pm

    I was going to vote for Rubio until I saw the debate. Rubio lost the debate. I will now vote for Val Demings. Depending on how DeSantis does in the debate, I might even vote for Charlie Crist.

    • Warren Wright

      October 18, 2022 at 10:04 pm

      You are the problem. In 2020, 81 million people like you voted against their own best interests, abandoned world peace, border security, energy independence, low inflation and low interest rates, and put the US in the mess we’re in. Please don’t repeat this awful mistake. Please think before you vote.

      • Tom

        October 18, 2022 at 11:08 pm

        Prices are always artificially low before inflation. Donald Trump sat on his balls and cheered while the economy was overheating… thought that was a good thing.. thought it was cool. Then after Trump meltdown he got fired… now because one man gets out of a chair and another man sits down shame on Biden. Contractionary fiscal policy was the answer but Trump would have none of it. Now as usual the Dems can’t clean up GOP messes fast enough. Cry me a river..

      • Mr. Haney

        October 19, 2022 at 7:00 pm

        You’re a lying coward and a traitor.

    • Hope

      October 18, 2022 at 11:18 pm

      (Fake) Tom,

      You should be prosecuted for identity theft.

      • Tom

        October 18, 2022 at 11:45 pm

        You should be shot in the head for being a neo nazi..

    • Sam

      October 19, 2022 at 12:19 am

      Tom – do your research before following Val’s lies…
      Senator has too many accomplishments to list!!
      But something tells me that you were already voted for the vile, far left Val….I’m from Val’s district – she has done nothing!

    • Karen

      October 19, 2022 at 5:29 am

      What’s wrong with you? Demings displayed zero knowledge of foreign affairs or economics! All she did was throw personal insults. She wants the federal government to take over Florida. Never never Demings! Marco Rubio has good common sense and has my vote along with the majority of Floridians.

    • Dale

      October 19, 2022 at 12:13 pm

      No one believes you.

      • Tom

        October 19, 2022 at 1:23 pm

        No one gives a shit about being believed anymore. Catch up…

  • Frankie M.

    October 18, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    So “roof claims” are responsible for our insolvent property insurance market? Good to know. Did Marco even bother to show. up tonite?

  • Kevin Siffermann

    October 18, 2022 at 10:17 pm

    I was going to vote for Deming before I saw this debate. She seems super angry and incompetent.

    • Tom

      October 18, 2022 at 11:12 pm

      She tore Rubio a new asshole because he’s a cold drink of water on a winters day. Just another GOP charlatan.. empty suit. Plenty of stupid people who still vote for these clowns so I guess the country is fked for another 40 years until GOP is painfully obvious that this is not a legitimate governing party. Just saboteurs and obstructionist party in favor of the rich. Money doesn’t trickle down. Enjoy slavery in 40 years.

      • J

        October 19, 2022 at 4:59 pm

        Your party is the party of the elites, KKK and slavery. Your party is awfully left these days and it’s going to cost your traitorous party dearly

      • Tom

        October 20, 2022 at 4:13 am

        Real Tom here, just a clueless Joe corsin.

        Rubio plastered Dumings, she is clueless. All witnessed it.
        Senator Rubio, America’s Gov.

    • Pam Gray

      October 19, 2022 at 4:32 am

      If Republicans win the House +the Senate, all you will see for the next 2 years is Trump minions in congress carrying out endless grievance investigations to appease the king.
      As long as (R) voters are okay with a national abortion ban; all the progress we’ve made to reduce our carbon footprint to address climate change rolled back; the end of social security +medicare (that the GOP affectionately refers to as “entitlements”); +the end of democracy as we know it, then vote (R). Markets will get better but once democracy is gone, that’s it. I’m voting for democracy. Val, Charlie, IOW, blue.

  • Impeach Biden

    October 18, 2022 at 11:25 pm

    Embarrassing for our country that Demmings was even allowed to share a stage with a white man. I want my America back.

    • Charlie Crist

      October 18, 2022 at 11:47 pm

      👆 This man suffers from poor character… like we didn’t see that coming 😆

      • Sam

        October 19, 2022 at 12:25 am

        Charlie Crist – you of all people, have no room to even comment. Enjoy your retirement!

        • Pam Gray

          October 19, 2022 at 4:48 am

          Anyone who votes for DeSantis doesn’t recognize the signs of what is coming down the pike. Just look what your governor did to people who have paid for their crimes +were told could vote, only to be arrested by your governor’s new Nazi election police. The guy is banning books, has created his own police force to intimidate voters, started a don’t say gay movement which goes against 1st Amendment, wants to have a federal ban on abortion…etc. Do you recognize these signs AT ALL? If you don’t, you’re not really paying attention. BTW: inflation is a global problem +I guarantee you won’t see (R)s do a damn thing to try to correct it other than more tax cuts for the wealthy +keeping the fossil fuel industry well lubed (pun intended) as they continue to f*** our planet.

    • Mr. Haney

      October 19, 2022 at 7:46 pm

      Drop dead bigot.

  • Robert Stebbins

    October 18, 2022 at 11:51 pm

    I thought Val Deming did a fantastic job tonight against Marco Rubio. In stead of addressing the issues in an honest and open way, Rubio tried to filibuster his way through the debate, spewing out old tag such socialist and liberal. Why do Republicans always try to negatively label opponents or make a boogeyman out of them. Could it be that they don’t have any answers execept for tax cuts? By the way, the writer of this article seems heavy slanted toward Rubio.

  • Sam

    October 19, 2022 at 12:23 am

    Frankie M. – yes, the fraudulent claims is a good part of it. Do yourself some good, research tonight’s information. You will find that Val has nothing to offer except rubber stamp the far left’s agenda.

    • Pam Gray

      October 19, 2022 at 4:53 am

      so sad. val is not far left. i;m not far left but anyone who doesn’t agree with christian nationalism is far left.

      do you want social security cut? medicare? be careful what you wish for. u need to do some research yourself and not just listening to Fox OAN or Newsmax..

    • Mr. Haney

      October 19, 2022 at 7:47 pm

      The fraud is you Sam. Admit it.

  • Phil Morton

    October 19, 2022 at 7:25 am

    Demings was on message and on target while Marco was meandering around as he’s done for the last 12 years. New energy is needed in the U.S. Senate and Val Demings has that energy.

  • Yrral

    October 19, 2022 at 8:40 am

    Lil Marco Google Marco Rubio Drug Cartel

  • Tom

    October 19, 2022 at 8:52 am

    Boobio is a stiff drink of cold water on a winters day. Treats his position like a bullshit job. Vote out the empty suit.

  • Brian Brady

    October 19, 2022 at 10:59 am

    Demings came out of the gate strong but lacked substance in her arguments as the debate matured. She looked like a disappointed mother when she chided Rubio in the beginning,

    As the debate continued, Rubio really demonstrated his gravitas, credentials, knowledge, and performance as the senior Senator from Florida and Demings put the ball right on the tee for him to demonstrate that. The pivotal moment for me was when she suggested that foreign policy be “left to the experts” and Rubio was able to say “I am the expert. I am the current Vice-Chair and former Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee”

    I like Val Demings but House Democrats never groomed her for higher office. She has no real legislative accomplishments and her role as the House Manager in the Trump impeachment trial was for show. Her positions on abortion and the Second Amendment are awfully vague.

    Demings should be our Vice President today. I have confidence in her ability to lead if the current President were declared mentally incompetent but, for some reason, the Democratic establishment is beholden to the California Democratic Congressional Caucus.

    Demings will be a good candidate for Governor in 2026 if she can stay relevant and stay away from the extremists in her party.

    • Elliott Offen

      October 19, 2022 at 1:27 pm

      Say thank you for New York and California money bailing out stupid people who get wiped out by hurricanes, build back on top on the rubble and the bodies, get wiped out again, rinse, repeat… brilliant. Freedom for the rich, freedom t-shirts and freedom to be as stupid as you want for everyone else.

    • Ocean Joe

      October 19, 2022 at 5:31 pm

      The problem with Rubio’s ‘expertise’ in foreign policy or as a member of the gang of eight working on immigration reform, is that he caves and ghosts his own positions or legislation the moment he hears Trump is against it.

      He’s a smart guy, but he also has a well deserved reputation for being the slipperiest thing in the swamp.

    • Hope

      October 19, 2022 at 5:39 pm

      You lost me at, “Demings should be our Vice President today.”

      • Brian Brady

        October 20, 2022 at 11:20 pm

        Over Kamala Harris? Any day of the week. She was my Attorney General and Junior Senator until I fled to Florida. She is an empty suit with no real understanding of policy. She flip flops incessantly and is ammoral.

        I would not have voted for a Biden-Demings ticket but, since Biden won, I regret that he chose a vacuous incompetent over Val Demings. While I won’t vote for Demings, I do think she has a brain and a sense of right and wrong

    • Mr. Haney

      October 19, 2022 at 7:49 pm

      Horse manure. You didn’t watch the debate. Another RNC hired poster.

      • Brian Brady

        October 20, 2022 at 11:21 pm

        I most certainly did, Mr. Haney and while I am a registered Republican, my unsolicited opinion was offered with no remuneration nor outside influence. I own it

  • Ocean Joe

    October 19, 2022 at 5:20 pm

    She hit him like he was Dimorphos, but there are just too many red lemmings in Florida these days.

  • Mr. Haney

    October 19, 2022 at 7:24 pm

    Republicans are America’s greatest threat

  • Tom

    October 20, 2022 at 5:37 am

    Legend Tom here.
    Rubio, America’s Senator.
    No comparison, Dumings clearly lacked any substance.
    Rubio world class Senator.

  • Ed

    October 30, 2022 at 6:08 am

    Val Demmings nailed it and Rubio. A real stateswoman!

Comments are closed.


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