On Tuesday night, Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) debated Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), as she seeks to stop the incumbent senator from winning a third term. During her performance, she showed off her true colors as a radical and desperate candidate running in a state that's been turning increasingly red.
Rubio showed off his debate skills, especially early on, when the moderator referenced the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and the resulting record-high inflation, which is particularly bad in Florida. The candidates were specifically asked what can be done to help Florida families.
"I think the first thing we've got to start doing is stop sending that kind of money," Rubio insisted about the trillions of dollars injected into the economy, "adding we already did two pandemic reliefs, this came on top of it." Pointing to Demings, Rubio mentioned "they were warned, Democrats were warned, by Larry Summers, by other Democratic economists, you do this, you're gonna fire up inflation."
The senator also spoke to the need of how "we've gotta to produce American oil again," pointing to how under the Biden administration we are producing a million barrels less and begging Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela for oil. He was particularly critical of President Joe Biden depleting the Strategic Oil Reserves to critically low levels. "Our oil reserves do not exist to win midterms," Rubio pointed out. "They exist to help this country in an emergency or in the midst of a storm."
When it was her turn to answer, Demings began not with substance, but by attacking Rubio. "Of course the senator, who has never run anything at all but his mouth would know nothing about helping people and being there for people when they are in trouble," she claimed.
Demings defended her vote for ARPA, as a way to fix the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Rather than answer for ARPA's role in inflation, Demings charged "you played politics, senator, and you did not do that," going on to emphasize her claim that Rubio has not been doing his job.
During the back and forth Demings went on to claim that Rubio was lying "in order to win" and that "the Senator has obviously resorted to lying, cheating, and trying to steal."
The back and forth got nasty before the moderator forced the candidates to move along to the next question, on abortion, which also got intense. The abortion issue was where Demings' extremism truly came out, not only as Rubio framed his opponent's position while defending his own, but when it came to Demings' responses.
Rubio reminded he's "100 percent pro-life" and informed that every pro-life bill he's sponsored or voted for has exceptions "because that's what can pass and that's what the majority of the American people support." As Rubio made clear during the lengthy back and forth on this issue, his priority and interest is in "saving human lives" and getting through what bills can pass and what Americans support, which are those with exceptions.
The abortion ban being referenced during the debate is Sen. Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) ban at 15-weeks, with exceptions, which Rubio has co-sponsored. Rubio pointed out the bill is still more lenient than most European countries.
The senator also highlighted Demings' record. "The extremist on abortion in this campaign," he said, "is Congresswoman Demings." Rubio pointed out how "she supports no restrictions, no limitations of any kind" and how "she is against a four month ban, voted against a five month ban" and "supports taxpayer-funded abortion on demand for any reason at any time up until the moment of birth. That's what she supports. That's the extreme position here."
Rubio also called out the mainstream media's failure to highlight, charging "nobody ever asks them about that."
The senator also later brought up how babies have been born alive in Florida, and that the congresswoman voted against legislation to protect such babies as proof of "how extreme she is" as well as "out of the mainstream" and "radical."
Demings was laughing, shaking her head, and muttering during Rubio's response before they engaged in their back and forth. "Senator, how gullible do you really think Florida voters are," she asked while laughing. Demings would repeatedly accuse Rubio of supporting "no exceptions," despite how he supports exceptions for the life of the mother, and how he repeatedly mentioned the the bills he's sponsored and voted for having exceptions.
No longer laughing, Demings' voice took on a more passionate tone as declared "no, I don't think it's okay for you to make decisions for women and girls," to the senator, adding "I think those decisions are made between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her faith."
Despite Demings seemingly treating the abortion issue as a joke when it comes to Rubio's accusations and claimed it was "a lie," she again didn't fully answer for the charges, as she did not share what limit she would support. When the moderator, at Rubio's urging, gave her a chance to answer for that, Demings went back to her claim that Rubio doesn't support any exceptions and also that he was a liar. "What we know is that the senator supports no exceptions," Demings declared, as she wagged her finger. "He can make his mouth say anything today, he's good at that by the way, what day is it, and what is Marco Rubio saying."
What response Demings finally did have to offer was that "I support a woman's right to choose up to the time of viability." Rubio wanted to know more specifics of what limits Demings would support, but would not get it during the debate, mentioning viability "is the vague line they all give," referring to other pro-abortion Democrats who won't answer the question.
Demings' record also lends credence to Rubio's claims. She does indeed support abortion up until the moment of birth for any reason with taxpayer funds, given her opposition to the Hyde Amendment and her support for the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA). While supporters claim it will codify Roe v. Wade, it will actually expand it and invalidate pro-life laws passed at the state level.
It appeared that a refusal to answer direct questions was a theme for Rep. Demings. When asked if she would accept the results of the 2022 election, she answered by speaking to the importance of voting and how her parents who always voted. "Why on earth would we try to stop them from voting," she asked, as she then promoted "protecting democracy" and "the right to vote."
Rubio more directly answered the question, also earning laughter from the audience as he pointed out "I'm not like Stacey Abrams from Georgia who denied her election. I've never denied an election."
He then promoted how "elections have to have rules" and called out Rep. Demings' support for legislation that would have led to a federal takeover of elections, which included even opposing voter ID laws.
Senator @marcorubio blasts Val Demings for supporting a federal takeover of elections: "You have to ask for ID to get into her neighborhood where she lives and you have every right to have that. But you can't ask for [ID] when they vote?" pic.twitter.com/t1si5rOiVI— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 18, 2022
Rubio also pointed out how Georgia had record turnout after passing an election integrity law, despite how opponents called "some segregationist, Jim Crow bill." He emphasized though that "these are rules, these are rules that allow people to have confidence that their counted and their voted mattered. They're not suppressing anyone's vote, they are rules designed to make sure the system worked the way it's supposed to work."
Later in the debate, Rubio and Demings were asked by another moderator about voting legislation, with Demings further promoting the federal takeover election of laws based on wrongs of past decades.
Speaking about today's voting accessibility, Rubio was confident in emphasizing "it's never been easier to vote" and remind that there was "record African-American voter turnout" in Georgia after the election integrity law passed. He took issue with Jim Crow comparisons, insisting "to compare what's happening now to the Jim Crow era, where people were literally murdered, where people were forced to... pay poll taxes and take literacy tests, what are we talking about here," he asked, as he laid out the situation today, which includes showing an ID to vote and an inability to harvest ballots.
Senator @marcorubio: "It's never been easier to vote."— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 18, 2022
"In Georgia — which they claim to be the place that was suppressing all the votes — you had record African American voter turnout." pic.twitter.com/xajpKDyeSX
Demings' tactic, once again, was to make far-fetched accusations against Rubio, such as how "every person" having the right to vote "scares the Senator to death." Rubio pithily responded, though, that "if I'm trying to suppress the right to vote then I'm wasting a lot of money telling people to go out and vote," since that what his campaign has been all about and insisted he did not support suppression efforts.
Later in the debate, when discussing gun control, Rubio warned against "pass[ing] laws that only law-abiding people will follow and criminal will continue to violate," Demings responded by dismissing the Second Amendment.
"What makes no sense is that we're gonna actually pass laws that only law-abiding people will follow and criminals will continue to violate," says Senator @marcorubio.— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 18, 2022
"At the end of the day, Americans have a Second Amendment right to protect themselves." pic.twitter.com/xuse2ZNNjc
"Every time we talk about responsible gun ownership and legislation that could help protect lives, you pull the Second Amendment out," Demings charged, before claiming "this has nothing to do about the Second Amendment." The congresswoman continued to raise her voice as she asked the senator "how long will you watch, people being gunned down, first grade, fourth grade, and high school, college, church, synagogue, a grocery store, a movie theater, a mall, and a night club, and do nothing?"
Rubio calmly responded that "everything she is for would do nothing to stop these shootings" and that "no one here is in favor of mass shootings and violence" and that it was "not accurate" to say they did nothing. Demings responded by hysterically repeating Rubio did "nothing."
Still later in the debate, Demings couldn't given an answer on immigration without also throwing Rubio under the bus, pointing out "the senator likes to talk about open borders, it's almost an insult to the men and women who are there securing the border."
Rubio turned it around by reminding that "the only one who has insulted the people working the border are Joe Biden and Democrats who accused them of whipping Haitian migrants and that turned out not to be true" and also how Demings opposed a border wall and would ban border funding. Demings went on to call the charge a lie and questioned "would you be willing to do anything to win, Senator" and laughed as she accused him of "making it up."
Senator @marcorubio: "The only one who has insulted the people working the border are Joe Biden and Democrats who accused them of whipping Haitian migrants and that turned out not to be true." pic.twitter.com/njZnTMuniR— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 18, 2022
Demings clung to attacking Rubio until the bitter end. After saying in her closing statements that "I just happen to believe that every person, regardless of who they are, deserves the opportunity to succeed, deserves the opportunity to make it," claimed that "the senator will pick and choose winners and losers based on their ability to pay to play" as she ranted about his record before running out of time.
RealClearPolitics (RCP), which considers the race to be "Leans GOP," has Rubio with a +4.7 lead in the polls. This is similar to other forecasters, which consider the race to be "Likely Republican." DecisionDeskHQ, which also has the race as "Likely Republican," gives Rubio an 83.4 percent chance of winning.