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.

Cases: 331863

Reported Deaths: 7494
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22855279
Hinds22625437
Harrison19462326
Rankin14765286
Jackson14233251
Madison10658227
Lee10398178
Jones8713169
Forrest8164157
Lauderdale7528243
Lowndes6761150
Lamar665988
Lafayette6446124
Washington5497139
Bolivar4907134
Pearl River4889149
Oktibbeha476898
Panola4719112
Marshall4648106
Warren4612125
Pontotoc438873
Monroe4243137
Union424379
Neshoba4179180
Lincoln4088115
Hancock402788
Leflore3562125
Pike3511111
Tate348988
Alcorn343174
Sunflower342293
Adams331987
Yazoo330573
Scott330175
Simpson313690
Copiah311467
Itawamba309580
Coahoma308285
Tippah298368
Prentiss292563
Covington280183
Marion278980
Leake277975
Wayne269942
Grenada265688
George259851
Newton256064
Tishomingo235769
Winston235084
Jasper225748
Attala220373
Chickasaw215960
Stone209137
Holmes194974
Clay191554
Tallahatchie181542
Clarke181480
Calhoun177332
Smith175334
Yalobusha169240
Walthall140448
Lawrence137026
Greene134934
Amite131843
Noxubee131135
Perry130838
Montgomery130644
Carroll124531
Webster116732
Jefferson Davis112934
Tunica110827
Benton104425
Claiborne104231
Kemper100329
Humphreys99033
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw80919
Wilkinson73232
Jefferson69028
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 565510

Reported Deaths: 11468
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson828061584
Mobile44938853
Madison36534532
Tuscaloosa26589465
Shelby26409255
Montgomery25598623
Baldwin23319324
Lee16691179
Calhoun15030332
Morgan14877288
Etowah14563368
Marshall12723235
Houston11302292
Elmore10576217
St. Clair10449251
Limestone10420158
Cullman10198204
Lauderdale9883253
DeKalb9226191
Talladega8705187
Walker7545286
Autauga7388113
Jackson7216117
Blount7147139
Colbert6522142
Coffee5962131
Dale5224117
Russell463942
Chilton4603117
Covington4502125
Franklin439781
Tallapoosa4343156
Escambia414782
Chambers3813124
Dallas3674163
Clarke361562
Marion3354106
Pike323179
Lawrence3176101
Winston289672
Bibb276165
Geneva267383
Marengo257367
Barbour241860
Pickens238862
Butler233571
Hale230578
Fayette223863
Henry203345
Cherokee192347
Randolph192244
Monroe190241
Washington174539
Macon167252
Crenshaw163457
Clay161859
Cleburne158445
Lamar149138
Lowndes143854
Wilcox128431
Bullock125342
Conecuh117730
Coosa115229
Perry109628
Sumter107532
Greene95935
Choctaw63125
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