Voters will have their one and only opportunity to judge Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democrat Charlie Crist head-to-head when the two contenders for Governor meet on a debate stage a 7 p.m. Monday in Fort Pierce.
The debate was supposed to have happened on Oct. 12 in West Palm Beach but was rescheduled after Hurricane Ian hit on Sept. 28.
Crist, a former Republican Governor, Attorney General and Education Commissioner, who most recently served as a Democratic Congressman from Pinellas County, has his work cut out for him against the incumbent: DeSantis is far ahead in fundraising and in the polls.
Nevertheless, Crist struck a chipper note on Twitter Monday morning.
“Good morning, Florida! Who’s ready to watch me hold Ron DeSantis accountable on the debate stage tonight?” he wrote.
DeSantis hadn’t mentioned the debate on his own Twitter thread but Christina Pushaw, his campaign director for rapid response, said the DeSantis War Room thread would be live tweeting the meeting “and debunking any lies or false narratives from the opposition!”
Among the issues Crist is likely to raise are abortion rights — DeSantis pushed Florida’s 15-week abortion ban without exceptions for rape or incest through the Legislature — the state’s escalating housing and insurance costs, controversial education policies and immigration.
DeSantis likely will tout his “Free State of Florida” COVID-19 policies — he opened the schools and businesses sooner than most state following an initial lockdown and banned vaccine and mask mandates — and his supervision of the response to Hurricane Ian.
Crist likely also will seek to tie DeSantis to election denialism and the Republican trend toward casting doubt on the validity of elections; the Governor pushed election restrictions, including the creation of a new vote fraud law enforcement unit that made a number of questionable arrests, even though he praised the conduct of the 2020 elections in Florida.
“Defeat fascism, defeat DeSantis,” Crist wrote in a second Twitter post Monday.
DeSantis led the Democrats by 10 points or more in the most recent polls of Florida voters, according to FiveThirtyEight, the survey analysis site. Additionally, a Mason-Dixon survey of Florida Hispanic voters gave the Governor a 51% to 44% lead statewide.
Fifty-six percent of Hispanic voters approved of DeSantis’ job performance, although his biggest fans were among the Cuban American community. Narrow majorities of Puerto Rican and other non-Cuban Hispanics disapproved of his airlift of mostly Venezuelan asylum seekers to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
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