Polls show dead heat in Florida governor race

Democratic nominee for Florida governor Andrew Gillum slammed Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, for his ties to President Donald Trump. CNN's Harry Enten shares his forecast on who will win.

Posted: Oct 21, 2018 1:22 PM
Updated: Oct 21, 2018 1:52 PM

Only a few days after making his return to the campaign trail following a hurricane-enforced hiatus, Florida Democrat Andrew Gillum will square off with Republican Ron DeSantis on Sunday night in the first debate of their high stakes gubernatorial race.

CNN's Jake Tapper will host the one-hour face-to-face beginning at 8 p.m. ET, from the WEDU studios in Tampa. The debate will be broadcast live on CNN.

With only a little more than two weeks now before Election Day, and early voting starting on Monday, DeSantis is likely eyeing the showdown as an opportunity to alter the course of a race most polls have shown breaking consistently, if narrowly, in Gillum's favor.

At a campaign stop on Friday, Gillum, the young progressive mayor of Tallahassee, predicted the Republican former congressman would hit him low and hard -- then warned he was prepared to return the favor.

"(DeSantis) is going to call me a socialist. He's going to call me corrupt. He's going to throw his covered-up versions of racial epithets. He's going to call me anti-Israel," Gillum said, comparing his opponent to President Donald Trump, whose endorsement DeSantis rode to victory in the August primary.

"I'm going to do everything I can to have a debate that is deserving of the people of Florida," Gillum said. "But if I have to go there, I'm going to go there."

Though they have blanketed the airwaves with ads, the debate will offer Gillum and DeSantis a chance to introduce themselves to voters in a more intimate and unscripted setting.

"There's an element of this that's sort of the initial pass/fail thing everyone has to go through," Florida-based Democratic strategist Steve Schale said. "Obviously, I think Andrew's done more of this stuff in his life, but both of them are fairly new quantities on the statewide scale and stage."

DeSantis, like Gillum, was a surprise primary winner. But his transition to the general election has been a rocky one. After outlasting Adam Putnam, the state's agriculture commissioner, DeSantis went on Fox News to warn Floridians not to "monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda" and voting for Gillum, who stands to be the state's first African American governor.

"It has zero to do with race," DeSantis said during the firestorm that followed. "It has everything to do with whether we want Florida to go in a good direction."

DeSantis resigned from his House seat soon thereafter to focus on the gubernatorial contest. But his campaign, which in the primaries was almost entirely predicated on his fealty to Trump, has moved slowly in rolling out a policy platform. DeSantis opposes Medicaid expansion in the state, which Gillum ardently supports, but has still not -- just weeks out from the election -- released a comprehensive health care plan. His website's issues page doesn't address it, which polling has shown to be a top concern for Florida voters.

On Saturday morning, though, the Republican got another boost from Trump, who tweeted his support -- and an attack on Gillum.

"DeSantis is working hard. A great Congressman and top student at Harvard & Yale, Ron will be a record setting governor for Florida. Rick Scott gave him tremendous foundations to further build on," Trump said. "His opponent runs one of the worst & most corrupt cities in USA!"

Gillum promptly fired back, quoting Trump and suggesting the President hadn't been brave enough to mention him by name: "When you lie about me from the most powerful office in the world," Gillum wrote, "and still don't have the courage to @ me..."

Trump was referring to an ongoing federal investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee. Gillum has said the FBI told him he was not a focus of the probe. Earlier this month, his campaign sent a letter to television stations asking that they halt running a Florida Republican Party ad that ties Gillum directly to it.

Gillum has successfully united Florida Democrats -- one of his primary opponents, Chris King, is now his running mate -- and has the uniform support of the political left's best-known national figures. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was an early supporter of Gillum, who has received significant financial backing from liberal megadonors Tom Steyer and George Soros. Gillum will appear alongside Hillary Clinton at a private event later in the week and, separately, at events with former Vice President Joe Biden, who will also be campaigning for Sen. Bill Nelson, the incumbent Democrat now in a tight re-election fight with GOP Gov. Rick Scott.

DeSantis and Gillum will meet again, for their second and likely final debate, on Wednesday in South Florida.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
43° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 43°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 46°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 39°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 48°
High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for our Saturday. This will keep us filled with plenty of sunshine in our weather forecast for our Saturday.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather