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Will you run for president? Florida governor refuses to say in caustic debate

MIAMI — Democrat Charlie Crist got here to his first and solely debate with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis prepared with only one query Monday night time about his opponent’s political aspirations.

“You’re operating for governor,” Crist mentioned, DeSantis because the governor regarded ahead. “Why don’t you look within the eyes of the individuals of the state of Florida and say to them if you happen to’re re-elected, you’ll serve a full four-year time period as governor. Sure or no?”

DeSantis mentioned nothing as 4 seconds ticked by and the talk corridor began to fall quiet.

“Sure or no, Ron?” Crist requested once more.

DeSantis requested the moderator about his allotted time.

“It’s not a troublesome query,” Crist mentioned, filling the lifeless air. “It’s a good query. He received’t inform ya.”

That is when the moderator, CBS12’s Liz Quirantes, stepped in and identified that each side had agreed they wouldn’t ask one another questions onstage.

DeSantis then went on the assault.

“Nicely, pay attention,” he mentioned, “I do know that Charlie’s fascinated about speaking about 2024 and [President] Joe Biden, however I simply wish to make issues very, very clear. The one worn-out outdated donkey I’m trying to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist.”

The change, which got here in the course of the first 20 minutes of the hour-long debate, underscored the dynamics of the race: Crist, the previous governor attempting to make a comeback by needling the sitting governor, and DeSantis giving as acidly as he received.

On matters starting from housing and insurance coverage to immigration and transgender therapies for youths, the 2 candidates traded insults, pre-cooked one-liners and speaking factors as either side’s supporters within the viewers howled in derision of the opposite man and approval of their very own.

Crist known as DeSantis “divisive” and a “bully,” whereas DeSantis repeatedly solid Crist as a Biden Democrat who voted with the president “one hundred pc of the time” earlier than stepping down from Congress to concentrate on the governor’s race. When Crist blamed DeSantis for the skyrocketing price of hurricane insurance coverage and rising utility payments, the governor faulted Crist for supporting Biden’s insurance policies amid rising inflation.

DeSantis is main Crist in each main ballot in Florida, with survey averages giving the governor as a lot as a ten proportion level lead in a state that the governor received by lower than half a proportion level in 2018.

Again and again Monday night time, Crist returned to the problem of DeSantis’ looming choice on whether or not he would run for president in 2024. Every time, DeSantis refused to take the bait.

It wasn’t the one query DeSantis wouldn’t reply.

On abortion, which DeSantis outlawed after 15 weeks of being pregnant with out exceptions for rape or incest, the governor wouldn’t say whether or not he would enact additional limitations — a problem he has ducked from reporters as properly.

Requested by the moderator after what week of being pregnant abortion ought to be banned,” DeSantis as an alternative pivoted to speaking about how the mom of his newly appointed Florida Supreme Court docket justice, Renatha Francis, had been urged to abort her baby however determined to not.

“I simply suppose we’re higher when everyone counts. I perceive not everybody’s going to be born in good circumstances. However I wish to see everyone have a shot,” DeSantis mentioned, accusing Crist of supporting “sex-selective abortions, which is used to discriminate in opposition to little women. He helps dismemberment abortions, the place they actually will tear the newborn limb from limb, and he helps taxpayer funding all the best way up till the second of start, and that’s mistaken.”

Crist accused DeSantis of mendacity and evading.

“He wouldn’t reply your query. Do you wish to ban abortion fully? He by no means received to it. He talked about Jamaica,” Crist mentioned. “I don’t wish to ban abortion. I wish to make certain we maintain a girl’s proper to decide on accessible to the ladies of the State of Florida.”

Crist then highlighted the case of a center faculty woman in Jacksonville who mentioned she was raped however couldn’t get an abortion as a result of she was greater than 15 weeks pregnant. So she was taken to a different state.

“That’s not compassionate management,” Crist mentioned. “That’s not doing the fitting factor. That’s not even having a coronary heart. That’s callous. It’s barbaric, and it’s mistaken, and Florida deserves higher.”

However DeSantis hit again by noting that Crist, a former Republican, as soon as ran as a “professional life” conservative and was due to this fact “a bit of little bit of a chameleon … The query is, is that this an trustworthy change of coronary heart? Or is that this the man that’s going to shift with no matter wind he must to attempt to maintain his political profession alive? I feel everyone knows the reply to that query.”

Crist was extra evasive when it got here to the problem of permitting teenagers to obtain hormones, puberty blockers or surgical procedures in the event that they really feel their gender identities don’t match their start intercourse.

DeSantis has proposed banning these practices in Florida and, on the talk stage, decried “double mastectomies on younger women … chemically castrating younger boys … genital mutilation.”

Crist tried to show the dialogue extra towards abortion.

“This jogs my memory of your place on a girl’s proper to decide on,” Crist mentioned. “You suppose you realize higher than any doctor or any physician or any girl ready to make choices about their very own private well being.”

DeSantis then mentioned to Crist, “you help it for minors. Try to be trustworthy in regards to the concern.”

Crist was extra direct in criticizing DeSantis for his “inhumane” use of Florida funds to fly Venezuelan migrants from San Antonio, Texas, to Martha’s Winery in Massachusetts final month to make a political level about immigration on the southern border, which Crist acknowledged is a “downside.”

“I assumed what the governor did was a horrible political stunt,” Crist mentioned. “You’re keen to make use of individuals like that … and have them as props to your political achieve? That’s not the best way to alter coverage. You possibly can change coverage and do what’s proper to safe the border by having complete immigration reform. That’s what I voted for in Congress. If you have been in Congress, you wouldn’t do it since you wish to maintain this concern alive. You wish to have it as a wedge concern. And also you wish to pull political stunts such as you did with the taxpayers’ {dollars} of the individuals of Florida.”

DeSantis then put the concentrate on Biden.

“You say you’re for a safe border, however that is all taking place beneath the Biden administration and the insurance policies that Charlie Crist helps,” DeSantis mentioned, including that the Martha’s Winery flights elevated the problem of immigration.

“We’ve elites on this nation that wish to impose insurance policies on you, however they don’t wish to need to undergo the identical penalties that you’ll have to in your neighborhood,” he mentioned. “What we did — it’s unhappy that it involves this — however we did put this concern entrance and heart.”

DeSantis additionally proudly touted his dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic and his choice to reopen the state and public colleges early, along with banning masks and vaccine mandates. Crist, in Congress on the time, was against these steps.

“I can let you know as Charlie Chris and his pals in Congress have been urging you to be locked down, I lifted you up,” DeSantis mentioned. “I protected your rights. I made positive you could possibly earn a residing. I made positive you could possibly function your companies. And I labored like heck to verify we had all our youngsters at school in-person 5 days per week.”

Crist identified DeSantis wasn’t speaking in regards to the individuals who had died and gotten sick from Covid on his watch.

“We had one of many highest demise charges in America, Ron, and over 6 million of our fellow Floridians have gotten Covid beneath your management,” he mentioned. “Now that’s not one thing to be boastful and proud about.”

DeSantis interpreted the information a unique approach, by age-adjusting mortality charges and saying that “38 different states had greater Covid mortality charges for senior residents than we did in Florida. And I feel that that’s the method individuals ought to have taken: Deal with the weak inhabitants, however be sure you’re not locking down the remainder of the individuals. We’ve thrived consequently. That may not have occurred if Charlie Crist had received his approach and locked down the state of Florida in July of 2020.”

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