Gillum ready to 'go there' if DeSantis attacks in Florida governor debate

Only a few days after making his return to the campaign trail following a hurricane-enforced hiatus, Florida...

Posted: Oct 22, 2018 8:23 AM
Updated: Oct 22, 2018 8:23 AM

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.

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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 he's consistently trailed in the polls. A new CNN survey conducted by SSRS out Sunday found Gillum with a double-digit lead, 54% to 42%.

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.

Confirmed Cases: 96677

Reported Deaths: 2911
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7143160
DeSoto559460
Harrison388374
Jackson350570
Madison331089
Rankin330679
Lee273670
Forrest248973
Jones248779
Washington225977
Lafayette219139
Lauderdale2059125
Bolivar184566
Oktibbeha179952
Lamar171635
Lowndes158058
Neshoba1579104
Panola149930
Sunflower147146
Leflore141081
Warren140750
Pontotoc127816
Pike124051
Monroe123568
Copiah119133
Scott117627
Coahoma116329
Marshall110617
Lincoln110253
Holmes109859
Grenada109036
Yazoo106230
Simpson104646
Tate100437
Union99824
Leake96038
Adams94137
Wayne90421
Pearl River89253
Marion86535
Prentiss86217
Covington82722
Itawamba82621
Alcorn82011
George78013
Tallahatchie77321
Newton77224
Winston74219
Tishomingo69038
Chickasaw68424
Tippah67117
Attala66725
Walthall60126
Clarke60046
Clay59518
Hancock58722
Jasper57515
Noxubee55116
Smith53415
Calhoun52112
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46420
Yalobusha43514
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38817
Humphreys37715
Quitman3775
Stone37412
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll31912
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2273
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19676351
Mobile13373292
Montgomery8834184
Tuscaloosa8621118
Madison788178
Shelby597849
Lee589760
Baldwin547750
Marshall394343
Calhoun351544
Etowah349045
Morgan329228
Houston290321
Elmore266748
DeKalb241621
St. Clair232235
Walker231684
Talladega216629
Limestone210120
Cullman189920
Dallas179026
Franklin177129
Autauga176425
Russell17603
Lauderdale171333
Colbert164626
Blount161115
Escambia160824
Chilton158530
Jackson157511
Covington140127
Dale138644
Coffee13486
Pike119810
Chambers116442
Tallapoosa116085
Clarke109116
Marion96429
Butler91239
Barbour8827
Winston74412
Marengo72020
Pickens66214
Bibb65410
Lowndes65327
Randolph64713
Hale63528
Geneva6254
Lawrence62023
Cherokee60813
Bullock60414
Monroe5898
Clay5858
Washington55713
Perry5416
Crenshaw53732
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry5055
Macon48018
Fayette4578
Sumter43819
Cleburne3805
Lamar3672
Choctaw34712
Greene30315
Coosa1713
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