Gillum Looks Strong In His Debate With DeSantis In Tampa Last Night

Gillumn has a good night but we will find out if it matters in two weeks

Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis faced off in a nationally televised debate last night in Tampa as both men made their case as to why each wants to be the governor of the state of Florida. While the hour-long showdown aired by CNN and moderated by Jake Tapper won’t be sent to the Oxford Debate Society there were more than a few good exchanges.

It was clear from the start that Gillum was the better candidate to speak on the issues while DeSantis clearly was playing defense for most of the night accusing his opponent of a number of transgressions in an attempt to mask his lack of any real policy knowledge or plans.

Gillum stayed on point on the most important issue in Florida and that is healthcare. DeSantis, at this point has no position on the issue which is a problem 15 days away from election day.

DeSantis sought to cast Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, as a failed leader, whose policy proposals would drag Florida into economic ruin. Meanwhile, Gillum painted DeSantis as an acolyte of President Trump, who would blindly take his cues from the White House

For his part the main theme for DeSantis was that Gillum, the Mayor of Tallahassee, is a “failed mayor.” “He’s presided over a crime-ridden city,” DeSantis said. “He’s involved in corruption. He’s not the guy to lead our state.”

Gillum was striking a more measured tone that was aimed at inclusion. “I’m here this evening standing for anybody that’s ever been told that they don’t belong,” Gillum said. “That they didn’t come from the right background or the right pedigree. I’m here fighting for everyday Floridians so that this is a state that works for all again.”

As expected Gillum did not shy away from going after DeSantis on his all in support for President Donald Trump. “Donald Trump is weak, and he performs as all weak people do: They become bullies,” Gillum said. “And Mr. DeSantis is his acolyte.”

“This is not Russia,” Gillum said. “You shouldn’t have to kiss the ring of the president of the United States for the president to see to the good of the third-largest state.”

Both men went into the political baggage area as Gillum brushed off the ongoing FBI investigation into possible corruption in his city government.

“I am not under FBI investigation and neither is my city government,” he said. “And what we have done is we welcome [the FBI] in.”

As for DeSantis dealt with accusations of racism since the day after his primary win, when he warned voters not to “monkey this up” by voting for Gillum, who is black.

DeSantis who served in the Navy spoke of his time in combat as a way to counter the race issue. He said that when he was “down range in Iraq, it didn’t matter your race.”

“Floridians can know that I’ll be a governor for all Floridians. That’s the only way you can do it,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to agree on every issue. But you know what? If we disagree tomorrow, maybe two weeks later we’ll find some common ground.”

One of the more entertaining exchanges of the evening came when moderator Jake Tapper asked DeSantis if he thought Trump was a good role model for children. The question was based in part on a DeSantis primary ad featuring one of his children stacking toy blocks as DeSantis exclaimed, “Build the wall!”

DeSantis responded by saying he thought Trump did the right thing by moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“I know Andrew didn’t support that and doesn’t think that’s right,” DeSantis said.

Gillum looked at Tapper and said, “I’m confused by the question.”

“The question was whether or not he thinks President Trump is a good role model for the children of Florida,” Tapper said.

“That’s what I thought,” Gillum said, drawing laughter from the audience. “No, he’s not. Donald Trump is weak, and he performs as all weak people do. They become bullies, and Mr. DeSantis is his acolyte. He’s trying out to be the Trump apprentice. At every turn he’s tweeting him.”

That’s when Gillum said that despite his disgust for Trump’s behavior, he wouldn’t turn down help from the president if it helped Florida.

It was quick and interesting hour but the point on if it changed anyone’s mind will be answered just 15 days from today.

Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.