The debates are now over. Nearly 1.8 million ballots have already been cast. It’s now a sprint down the homestretch for the two candidates who are running to be Florida’s next governor.
Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum slugged it out in their second and final debate Wednesday night at Broward College in Davie. It was a nasty continuation of their first highly contentious debate held Sunday in Tampa on CNN.
During the hour-long battle Wednesday, both men questioned the integrity of each other. Gillum suggested DeSantis was racist.
“My grandmother used to say a hit dog will holler,” Gillum said during the showdown.
“He has neo-Nazis helping him out in this state. He has spoken at racist conferences. He has accepted a contribution and would not return it from someone who referred to the former president of the United States as a Muslim n-i-g-g-e-r,” Gillum spelled out. “Now I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.”
DeSantis accused Gillum of lying in regard to an FBI investigation involving Tallahassee city hall and knowing that a ticket to the Broadway show Hamilton came from an undercover agent posing as a developer interested in doing business with the city.
“He wouldn’t accept responsibility for getting a $1,000 ticket from an undercover FBI agent at the last debate,” DeSantis said. “We now know that he lied about that. At some point you got to demonstrate leadership and accept responsibility for what you’ve done.”
Both men delivered stinging jabs during the debate, but both failed to deliver a knockout blow.
In an email sent out Thursday morning seeking contributions from his supporters, DeSantis called Gillum the “wrong choice for Florida.”
“His radical liberal policies would destroy the prosperity and opportunity we’ve enjoyed thanks to Governor Scott’s principled conservative leadership,” DeSantis said in the email. “As proud Floridians, we cannot allow and his radical anti-police agenda to put our citizens and our future into danger.”
For DeSantis and Gillum it’s now a matter of spending the next 12 days motivating their bases and getting their supporters to cast ballots in the November 6 election. Gillum kicked off the first of his General Election “Bring It Home” Bus Tour Thursday morning. with a swing through several South Florida colleges.U.S. Rep. John Lewis will join Gillum on the first day of the campaign tour. The tour will take Gillum across Florida in the days to come.
Of the 1.8 million mail-in and early voting ballots that have already been cast, Republicans hold a strong 53,000 ballot lead — dashing any hopes among Democrats of a “blue wave” developing thus far in Florida.
Polls have consistently shown Gillum leading in the race, but the margins have varied. In the past week, a CNN survey showed the Democrat up by 12 percent, while Quinnipiac University had Gillum up by 6 percent. Meanwhile, a St. Pete Polls survey had Gillum with just a 1-point advantage.
Real Clear Politics, which provides an average of the polls taken to date, gives Gillum an average lead of 5.8 percent.
Despite what the polls show, the governor’s race in Florida is expected to be a battle that 12 days out is still too close to call and could remain a toss-up until the votes are actually counted.