Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democratic Rep. Val Demings demonstrated in Tuesday’s Florida Senate debate why they’re thought-about two of the brightest stars by their respective events.
In a spirited and testy 60-minute debate – the primary and solely of the race – they traded fast barbs, sharp rebukes and pointed solutions, masking a variety of points from abortion and weapons to the financial system and nuclear warfare.
Rubio, a one-time presidential candidate who isn’t any stranger to the talk stage, leaned into his legislative achievements and coverage proposals whereas calling his opponent a creature of the political left who hasn’t handed any significant payments. Demings, a Home impeachment supervisor throughout former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment proceedings, painted Rubio as a politician who will say and do something to get reelected and in contrast his lengthy profession in elected workplace to her time on the police power in Orlando.
The race has largely flown beneath the radar in comparison with different hotly contested matchups that might management the destiny of the evenly divided Senate. And neither celebration had plans going into Tuesday to spend a lot on airtime within the last three weeks. That actuality favors Rubio in a state the place Republicans have constantly held the electoral edge and now outnumber Democrats in registered voters, placing the onus on Demings Tuesday to grab momentum earlier than early voting begins on Monday in lots of counties.
Listed here are 5 takeaways from the talk.
On a day when President Joe Biden moved to recast the midterm election as a referendum on abortion entry, Demings and Rubio tried to pin one another down on the place they’d draw the road in a post-Roe world.
Rubio stated that he’s “100% pro-life,” together with in instances of rape or incest as a result of “I don’t consider that the worth of human life is decided by the circumstances.” However he stated he would assist laws with exceptions if it helps get one thing handed. He’s one in all 9 Republican co-sponsors of a Senate invoice to ban abortion nationwide at 15 weeks, which Sen. Lindsey Graham filed in response to the US Supreme Courtroom choice in Dobbs earlier this yr.
“We’re by no means going to get a vote on a legislation that doesn’t have exceptions, as a result of that’s the place the vast majority of the American persons are,” Rubio stated. “And I respect and perceive that.”
Demings in her response invoked her legislation enforcement background (she is a former Orlando police officer and chief of police) for the primary of a number of instances.
“As a police detective who investigated instances of rape and incest, no, Senator, I don’t suppose it’s okay for a 10-year-old woman to be raped and have to hold the seed of her rapist,” Demings stated.
Pushed by Rubio to outline the week she would restrict abortion, Demings stated she would “assist a girl’s proper to decide on as much as the time of viability,” and would let docs determine when that’s. Rubio stated that wasn’t ok.
“She helps no limits of any type,” he stated. “That’s out of the mainstream. That’s radical.”
In a rustic perpetually rocked by gun violence, Florida nonetheless manages to face out as a state uniquely affected by mass shootings. Rubio served within the Senate for 2 of probably the most notable, which stand as key moments in his political biography. Rubio stated he determined to run for reelection to the Senate after the 2016 Pulse nightclub bloodbath. After the 2018 tragedy at a Parkland highschool, Rubio confronted a crowd at a CNN City Corridor that demanded motion and he promised he would work on options.
In that city corridor occasion, Rubio stated, “I completely consider that on this nation, in case you are 18 years of age, you shouldn’t be in a position to purchase a rifle, and I’ll assist a legislation that takes that instantly,” including, “I feel that’s the proper factor to do.”
Requested on Tuesday about his vow at that discussion board to think about age restrictions for sure firearms, Rubio stated, “That doesn’t work.”
“I feel the answer of this downside is to determine these folks which are appearing this fashion and cease them earlier than they act,” Rubio stated, pointing to the so-called purple flag invoice he proposed that might give states instruments to implement a course of to take weapons out of the arms of individuals flagged as threats by legislation enforcement. However Rubio voted towards a bipartisan gun security invoice that Biden signed into legislation.
“The basic subject is why are these youngsters, why are these folks going on the market and massacring these folks?” Rubio stated. “As a result of lots of people personal AR-15s and so they don’t kill anybody.”
To which Demings responded: “People who find themselves households of victims of gun violence simply heard that and so they’re asking themselves, ‘What within the hell did he simply say?’”
Demings, whose Orlando-based district contains Pulse, stated Rubio has carried out “nothing to assist deal with gun violence and get harmful weapons out of the arms of harmful folks.”
Rubio replied that it’s not possible to legislate criminals.
“The one folks that comply with these legal guidelines are law-abiding residents,” he stated.
Demings responded: “Why don’t we simply cease arresting murderers since we are able to’t discover all of them?”
Out of the gate, Rubio and Demings have been requested about Hurricane Ian, the huge Class 4 hurricane that pummeled Florida’s Southwest coast final month, and what the nation ought to do to organize for future tremendous storms.
Demings wasted no time mentioning local weather change.
“If we don’t do one thing about it, we’re going to pay a horrible worth for it,” Demings stated. “The federal authorities has obtained to be sure that FEMA has the sources that it must adequately reply, however we gotta get severe about local weather change.”
Rubio declined to look forward, or focus on local weather change, and as a substitute targeted on emergency response and restoration.
Requested later in regards to the crumbling property insurance coverage within the state, a focus within the wake of Ian, Rubio referred to as it “a state subject.”
Demings shot again that if it’s a state subject then Rubio had an opportunity to deal with the issue when he was speaker of the Florida Home.
“He’s been in elected workplace since 1998 and insurance coverage of Florida has tripled and persons are struggling,” Demings stated. “I despatched a letter to Governor (Ron) DeSantis saying, ‘Sure, I do know it’s a state subject. However how can we work collectively to decrease the prices of property insurance coverage for Floridians as a result of persons are struggling?’”
Rubio stated he did deal with it within the Florida Home.
“ who the governor was on the time? Charlie Crist, your gubernatorial candidate,” Rubio quipped. “I feel you’ve endorsed him. So you need to ask him if it didn’t work, however we definitely supported it.”
Whereas Trump has loomed giant in most of the midterm contests this cycle, he was hardly talked about in a debate in a race that can decide who will symbolize the previous President in Washington.
Demings, actually, by no means talked about Trump in any respect.
Nor did DeSantis, the state’s consequential Republican governor, get a lot airtime.
However the different high Republican within the state – Sen. Rick Scott, the top of the Senate GOP marketing campaign arm – was the subject of debate on Social Safety and Medicare.
Rubio was requested about Scott’s 11-point “Rescue America” plan, which included a provision to sundown all federal packages each 5 years, together with the favored entitlement packages.
Rubio rapidly dismissed the thought. “That’s not my plan.”
“It is best to ask him,” Rubio stated.
A section targeted on immigration coverage began with the moderator asking Rubio about Biden’s new coverage to stem the circulation of Venezuelan migrants by having them apply to reach within the US at ports of entry, not the Mexico-US border.
Rubio summarized it thusly: “Joe Biden simply instituted Trump’s ‘Return to Mexico’ coverage.”
“This can not proceed. It needs to be fastened,” he added. “That should occur with everybody that’s attempting to come back throughout however we’re gonna have 10,000 folks a day coming. And we are able to’t afford it. No nation on this planet can tolerate that.”
The Republican then put Demings on the defensive over the quantity of people that have crossed into america since Biden took workplace whereas additionally making an attempt to look sympathetic to the folks fleeing brutal regimes in South America. Florida is residence to many Latino communities, together with the biggest inhabitants of Venezuelans residing within the US.
“Nobody has carried out extra on the problem of Venezuela than I’ve,” Rubio stated. “And Cuba and Nicaragua.”
Demings, too, tried to straddle her celebration’s assist for migrants looking for asylum with out showing detached to the issues in regards to the exercise on the Southern border. She stated she supported including border patrol brokers, investing in unspecified expertise and hiring extra folks to course of migrants shifting by the authorized immigration system.
“We’re a nation of legal guidelines,” Demings stated. “We now have to implement the legislation however we additionally obey the legislation that claims individuals who have been in hassle can search asylum on this nation.”