It didn’t take long for the gloves to come off in Wednesday night’s Republican gubernatorial debate between Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis at Jacksonville University.
“Lately, however, it has felt a lot like I am running against the Seinfeld candidate. The campaign is being run out of a studio,” Putnam lashed out against DeSantis referring to his almost daily appearances on Fox News. “They have a smattering of celebrity guest appearances and at the end of the day, it’s all about nothing. But unlike Seinfeld, it’s not funny. And Floridians deserve better.”
DeSantis responded by bringing up the fact he has been endorsed by by the president.
“I am a proven, principled conservative leader,” DeSantis said. “And I’m endorsed by President Donald Trump.”
“There’s a very different approach that’s being taken between the success that President Trump had in winning his election and the campaign we’re seeing run here,” Putnam hit back. “President Trump ran on a plan. You’re running on an endorsement. It takes more than that to serve 21 million people.”
When DeSantis made reference to Putnam being a career politician spending 22 years in government, the agriculture commissioner fired back.
“Ron DeSantis has run for three offices in three years,” Putnam said. “That’s a career politician with A.D.D.”
Putnam had to come out swinging.
Since Trump offered his “full endorsement” of DeSantis in June, the tide has turned in the race. Since then, the DeSantis campaign now appears to have the momentum in the race. Real Clear Politics, which averages the polls conducted in various political contests, shows DeSantis with an 11-point lead over Putnam.
But, DeSantis took some jabs of his own. On the issue of water quality in South Florida he criticized Putnam for the donations he has taken from the sugar industry.
“Adam is basically the errand boy for U.S. Sugar,” DeSantis charged receiving a large applause of the crowd in attention. “All of his solutions are going to give them want they want. They’ve pumped millions of dollars directly and indirectly into his campaign. They’ve spent five million plus attacking me with fake news through his secretive PAC.”
“I think you can take everything my opponent knows about water and put it on a sticky note and still have room leftover for your grocery list,” Putnam charged back.
Wednesday night’s debate came just over a week after President Trump attended a rally in Tampa in support of DeSantis who the president has called an “absolute warrior.”.
It was a strong showing for Putnam in the final debate between the two candidates. The question that remains, was it strong enough to turn the momentum that DeSantis captured when he received the president’s endorsement?