Thursday, August 09, 2018

Five takeaways from the final Republican debate

Peter Schorsch Florida Politics August 9, 2018

— Who won? Neither candidate scored a knockout punch. Adam Putnam tried to attack early but didn’t succeed in highlighting policy differences between him and poll-leader Ron DeSantis. They’re both Republican. They both support Donald Trump. They both love the Second Amendment. And DeSantis has a big lead in the polls with less than three weeks left before the Aug. 28 primary. So, you’d have to say DeSantis won by not losing.

— Set your GPS: Putnam tried hard to stress his Florida roots, noting, “I don’t need a GPS to get around the state.” It seemed like a glancing blow, though, that had basically no impact on the debate stage and likely will have the same at the ballot box.

— The big man himself: Putnam clearly has been staggered by Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis, a point amplified last week at a rally in Tampa. DeSantis has run ads touting that endorsement, referring to Trump as “the big man himself.” Putnam was left to lament, “I wish he hadn’t put his thumb on the scale of a Florida campaign.”

— GOP health care plan: Don’t get sick: Pressed directly if they believed health care is a basic right, Putnam stuck his foot deeper into the abyss than DeSantis. Putnam after trying to tap-dance around the question, responded, “It is not a right for all.” DeSantis hemmed and hawed with a talking point quote that probably would make a less damaging sound bite in November, responding, “I think people should have the right to pursue the type of health care they want.”

— Was anyone paying attention anyway: In some markets, particularly Tampa Bay, you had to really want to watch this. It was not available on regular TV; you had to search it out online. With early ballots going out and opinion polls hardening, was this debate the political equivalent of a tree falling in the forest? Could be.

Top seven insults from the debate

With a hat/tip to Kevin Donohoe:

— “A career politician with A.D.D.”: DeSantis on Putnam: “Ron DeSantis has run for three offices in three years. That’s a career politician with A.D.D.”

— “Seinfeld candidate”: Putnam on DeSantis: He’s a “Seinfeld candidate” running a campaign “about nothing.”

— “Trump card”: Putnam on DeSantis: “The Trump card is the only card you have.”

— “Errand boy”: DeSantis on Putnam: “Adam is the errand boy for U.S. Sugar, he’s going to stand for them.”

— “A face on a milk carton”: DeSantis on Putnam during the 2016 presidential race: “Never showed up to a single rally -- you could have put his face on a milk carton. No one knew where he was.”

— "Casino owners and pornographers": Putnam on DeSantis’ billionaire backers: “My opponent’s contributions have come from casino owners and pornographers on the West Coast.”

— “You can put everything he knows on a sticky note":Putnam tweeted, “You can put everything @RonDeSantisFL knows about water on a sticky note and still have room for your grocery list.”