In FL, Dem and GOP operatives both claim victory in presidential debate while Gov. DeSantis clams up

Florida Capitol
The Historic Capitol, foreground, and Florida Capitol buildings. Photo Colin Hackley

Florida Republicans liked what they saw from President Trump during Tuesday night’s debate against Democrat Joe Biden, judging by their public statements and social media posts.

The state’s Democrats were, predictably, critical, especially of the president’s call upon the Proud Boys, a white-supremacist group to “stand back, stand by.”

In a written statement distributed by the party, Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried, the only Democrat holding statewide elected office, called the debate “one of the lowest moments in history for an American president.”

“As the nation watched, Donald Trump’s complete failure to condemn white supremacy renders him further unfit for office. Trump’s use of coded language in asking white supremacist terrorists to ‘stand by’ opens a dangerous new chapter in his desperation to retain power by any means. There is only one acceptable answer: White supremacy is a cancer on America, is a domestic terrorism threat to law and order, and must be denounced by every leader across our land.” Fried said.

“That includes Florida’s Republican governor, attorney general, and chief financial officer, as my fellow Cabinet members. They must be asked to account for where the leader of their party and the leader of our nation stands on white supremacy and it’s corrosive effects on our democracy.”

On its Twitter page, the party posted: “We can end this madness, but we need everyone to vote. Together we can restore dignity to the White House.”

Will the debate move the electorate in the biggest swing state, where the polls tend to show the candidates running neck and neck? Steve Schale, a Democratic operative and Biden ally, had this to say on Twitter:

“Trump wants to do a few things here: 1. Improve among suburban women. 2. Improve among seniors. Does any objective (observer) look at this debate think he did any of these? Meanwhile, Biden kept his cool and talked into camera directly to Americans.”

The post-debate bill of particulars against Biden posted on the web site of the Republican Party of Florida included that the Democrat supports defunding the police (he says he doesn’t) and hasn’t condemned violent protests (he has).

“Americans finally saw firsthand tonight, with no media filter, the cavernous difference between what a robust President Donald J. Trump has accomplished in just 47 months compared to what Joe Biden has done in 47 years,” Republican Party of Florida chairman Joe Gruters said in the written statement.

“President Trump’s record of getting-it-done contrasted brightly with the reality that even Biden’s few ‘accomplishments’ in nearly half a century were mistakes. From the three-strikes mandatory sentencing laws that disproportionately hit black Americans, to economic stagnation across America, to virtually every foreign policy position, Biden did it wrong — when he did anything,” Gruters said.

Party executive director Helen Aguirre Ferré focused on what Biden would mean for the judiciary.

@JoeBiden refuses to say who he would nominate to the Supreme Court and whether he would pack the court with liberal judges. He should not be allowed to hide this from American voters, surprised this wasn’t asked of him in debate last night,” she tweeted

Firebrand House member Anthony Sabatini took issue with the debate moderator who tried, mostly in vain, to hold Trump to the rules of decorum both campaigns had agreed upon.

“Fox News should fire Chris Wallace this week — dude has an agenda,” Sabatini tweeted, adding: “In all seriousness, @JoeBiden might be the single dumbest person to ever walk across a presidential debate stage.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis made no mention of the debate on his social media feeds and issued no public statement. Neither did Attorney General Ashley Moody. However, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis live-tweeted the proceedings, cheering for Trump all the way, culminating with this observation: @AOC and @BernieSanders aren’t having a good night.”

He referred to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Biden’s appearance of contradicting himself over whether he supports their environmental initiative, the Green New Deal.

Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio had no comment about the debate on Twitter or his official webpage, but on Facebook posted an online poll asking his followers to decide who won.

“I’m sure everyone has decided who they think was the winner of this debate. I want to hear who you think won — Joe Biden or Donald Trump?,” he wrote.

Rick Scott, the state’s junior U.S. senator, was silent about the debate on all three platforms.

Regarding white supremacy, Orlando House member Anna Eskamani posed this question Wednesday: “What does @GovRonDeSantis think about the Proud Boys?”

We could find no recent comments from the governor on that topic.

Gwen Graham, the former Democratic congresswoman from the Panhandle, who lost to Andrew Gillum in the 2018 primary for governor, included DeSantis in her overall critique of the evening.

“There is no greater @realdonaldtrump sycophant than @GovRonDeSantis. Must rid our country and Florida of both of them. Don in 2020. Ron in 2022,” Graham wrote.

Update: This article has been amended to include Nikki Fried’s most recent comments.