DeSantis Rocks “Worn Out Old Donkey” Crist in Debate

Governor Ron DeSantis and Gubernatorial Candidate Charlie Crist clashed Monday night in this election cycle’s first and only gubernatorial debate. The debate was a long time coming and surrounded by controversy, but worth the wait. Throughout the night, audience members cheered and heckled both men relentlessly, representing the state of modern politics.

Moderated by CBS 12’s Liz Quirantes, questions focused on the current hot-button issues in Florida, including education, abortion, COVID response, immigration, transgender policies, and Hurricane Ian.

Despite the variety of topics, DeSantis and Crist’s primary angles on each other remained consistent. DeSantis attacked Crist for being in lockstep with Joe Biden, referencing the “Biden-Crist agenda” multiple times. At the same time, Crist characterized DeSantis as thinking he knows better than women and doctors and as “divisive.”

On transgender policy, DeSantis has always been firmly against puberty blockers, hormones, and surgeries for minors and made the same point from the podium. On stage, he noted the immaturity of minors and the fact that the majority of gender dysphoria in children resolves itself by adulthood without intervention.

Crist responded by accusing DeSantis of thinking he knows better than doctors, and DeSantis countered by pointing out that minors can’t even get tattoos alone in Florida. The implication is that allowing for much more severe procedures would be an absurdity.

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The DeSantis War Room tweeted an example of Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, a doctor, agreeing with DeSantis about the dangers of drugs and surgeries for confused children.

DeSantis also reiterated his support for women’s sports and their right not to include biological males, citing his two athletic daughters.

In regards to another school policy, the teaching of Critical Race Theory, DeSantis had this to say:

“I’m proud of our history. I don’t want to teach kids to hate our country. I don’t want to teach kids to hate each other — and the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

On broader school policy, DeSantis lauded the performance of Florida schools, arguing that success wouldn’t have happened under continued lockdowns that Crist would have supported. The attack cuts especially deep given Charlie Crist’s running mate is former teachers union boss Karla Hernández-Mats, and teachers’ unions were a primary force in keeping schools closed.

DeSantis also pointed out that Crist had supported COVID vaccine mandates for schools, something DeSantis railed against as a violation of parental rights.

Surprisingly, Crist attempted to turn the attack around on Governor DeSantis, claiming he was “the shutdown guy” and was the only one who had overseen lockdowns between them. DeSantis fired back: “His [Crist’s] supporters sued me to keep the kids out of schools.”

Crist also attempted a reversal on the issue of crime and policing, calling himself a former “top cop.” DeSantis argued that this was ancient history and that Crist has softened up since. He also noted that police groups were endorsing him, not Crist.

The DeSantis War Room tweeted a montage of Crist’s softening on crime to punctuate the point.

Crist also went after DeSantis on the issue of abortion, claiming that DeSantis think’s he knows better than women, calling pro-life protections “barbaric.” This is in line with the broader Democrat strategy for the election cycle, which attempts to leverage the recent Dobbs decision to energize voters. To avoid the typical conservative pitfall of appearing unempathetic to women in difficult situations, DeSantis leaned into pathos with a story of a woman who kept her baby, saying, “we’re better when everyone counts.”

However, the Governor pulled no punches when it came to the fact, describing the nature of the abortion procedures Crist supports in uncomfortable detail and the level of development unborn children have at 15 weeks.

Crist also went after DeSantis for being out of state when Hurricane Ian hit, but the attack quickly backfired as DeSantis pointed out the incredible speed of the recovery he’s led and lambasted Crist for his fundraising scandals.

On border policy, DeSantis blamed Biden’s policy for the uptick in crossings but cited the progress that had been made with the Florida legislation cracking down on fentanyl.

Crist, apart from attacking DeSantis on policy, also floated the idea that DeSantis might leave the state during his term to run for president. In response, DeSantis uncorked a blistering rebuttal.

In his closing statement, the Florida Governor listed his accomplishments, even in the face of crises like the COVID pandemic and Hurricane Ian, but emphasized that there’s a lot of work left to do.

“We will continue to fight the good fight. We will continue to run the race. We will continue to keep the faith. We’ve accomplished an awful lot, but we’ve only begun to fight.”

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