KISSIMMEE, FL (June 27, 2018) – House Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam squared off in a nationally televised debate to become the Republican candidate for governor of Florida. The debate was held at the annual Sunshine Summit at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee and sponsored by the Republican Party of Florida (RPF). The Summit is a two day event featuring the debate on Day 1 (Thursday) and a star studded list of Republican speakers for Day 2 (Friday).
A capacity crowd of over +2,500 people attended the debate televised live by Fox News and moderated by Fox’s Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum.
Normally, such a debate would begin with some opening remarks by the candidates, but not this night. Instead, the moderators began with a pointed question regarding would they like to see the Roe vs. Wade decision regarding abortion be overturned. Both candidates evaded the question clumsily, implying Yes, they would support the decision being overturned. Rather than answer the question directly, they both said they supported the appointment of a Constitutional jurist to the Supreme Court.
They were then asked a series of questions regarding Russia interference in the 2016 election, immigration, gun control reform, and their support for President Trump. As to the latter, the President has publicly endorsed Mr. DeSantis. The Congressman also contended Mr. Putnam did not embrace or campaign with Mr. Trump during the 2016 election. When asked by the moderators if he had called Mr. Trump’s discourse vile and obscene, Mr. Putnam denied the allegation.
Both candidates publicly endorsed Mr. Trump’s policies and positions, but the edge has to go to Mr. DeSantis for the president’s endorsement. To counter this, Mr. Putnam claimed he knew the state better than his opponent who spent considerable time in Washington. He also claimed he had received the endorsement of several Sheriffs in the state. In response, Mr. DeSantis claimed he is paid to do his job in Washington, but spends as much time as possible back in Florida.
The turning point in the debate came in the area of immigration. Although both candidates openly opposed Sanctuary Cities (and States). Mr. DeSantis went on to say he would help vote eVerify into law, and that Mr. Putnam helped kill eVerify in Florida because his sponsors wanted cheap labor. In response, the Agriculture Commissioner danced around the issue, but didn’t refute the Congressman’s charges. From this, Mr. DeSantis scored heavily.
Keeping the February Parkland school shootings in mind, and the push back to the NRA by younger voters, the moderators asked if the candidates supported the gun safety lobby. Both candidates didn’t mention the organization by name but both claimed to be strong advocates of the 2nd Amendment.
In terms of the Parkland shooting, Mr. DeSantis claimed he would have gone after the FBI for failure to investigate the shooter when warned, and would have fired the local Sheriff for incompetence in the incident.
Both candidates supported President Trump’s recent actions regarding trade tariffs, claiming it was unfair our foreign competitors were mistreating American goods.
The candidates also agreed in principle:
* They were not in support of recreational marijuana.
* They supported aid to Puerto Rico in the wake of last year’s hurricane destruction.
In their closing statement, Mr. DeSantis thanked his supporters and reminded the audience of his relationship with Mr. Trump. In his closing, Mr. Putnam claimed to know the State of Florida better than his opponent and that he would always put “Florida First,” a slogan akin to President Trump’s “America First.”
In analyzing the debate overall, both opened badly, but this should be attributed to the structure of the debate by organizers. Mr. Putnam appeared confident and animated, but he had trouble responding to the eVerify issue which is his Achilles Heel. Beyond having the support of President Trump, Rep. DeSantis appeared more at ease at the podium, probably due to his years as an attorney and a Navy JAG officer.
It was a close debate, and both candidates would serve well as governor, but if I had to make a decision as to winner, I would have to give the nod to Mr. DeSantis.
Keep the Faith!
Tim Bryce is a freelance writer in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.