Rubio Bests Demings in Their Only Senate Debate - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Rubio Bests Demings in Their Only Senate Debate
Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Val Demings in debate, Oct. 18, 2022 (First Coast News/YouTube)

The one-hour debate Tuesday night between Florida’s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democrat challenger, Rep. Val Demings, the only debate to be held in this race, probably didn’t change many minds. In fact, save for political junkies, very few minds likely tuned in.

In Tampa, where I live, the debate was only available on the local NBC affiliate. In the 7 p.m. time slot, dinner trumps television in most households. We’ll have to wait to see the ratings numbers. But the best bet is that those with their televisions on at that time leaned more toward Family Feud, Big Bang Theory, or Access Hollywood. Those who did hit on the debate, by accident or design, heard Rubio give clear, detailed answers full of specifics and with reasons for his positions. Demings tended to be vague, leaning on talking-point abstractions, and was frequently insulting in a tone of feigned anger. She called Rubio a liar more than once. She mugged and rolled her eyes when Rubio’s answers undercut her leftist boilerplate.

The arguments covered the expected subjects: inflation, border policy (or the lack thereof), abortion, gun policy, voting laws, and whatever to do about Russia and China. Surprisingly, Donald Trump’s name never came up. I’d expected Demings to lean hard on that pedal.

Demings bobbed and weaved around the inflation issue, assigning no fault to the policies of the current Democrat administration. Rubio placed most of the blame on incontinent government spending, including overspending on the pandemic, for which Demings accused him of being heartless. Her analysis of his objections to the trillions spent in the name of COVID: “The senator, who has never run anything but his mouth, would know nothing about being helping people or being there for people when they are in trouble.” Charming. Rubio parried this and her other insults without sinking to her level.

On our current lack of a southern border, Rubio said he sympathizes with immigrants seeking a better life, but “there’s no country in the world that can tolerate or permit or afford 5,000 people a day arriving at your border, saying the magic words (‘I’m seeking asylum’) and being allowed into the country.” Demings said Rubio’s assertion that the border is open is “an insult” to the agents working to secure it. The television journalist moderator never asked her if she considered the border secure, as Biden and his associates insist it is. Though, had he done so, it’s unlikely she would have answered it, as she rarely directly answered any questions put to her but shifted to talking points only tangentially related to the question asked.

After Rubio’s brief but on-point analysis of why the gun control laws he’s opposed would have been less than worthless, inconveniencing law-abiding citizens but not preventing any shootings, Demings accused Rubio of letting people “get gunned down” in schools and churches. At one point, she made the remarkable statement that gun control laws have nothing to do with the Second Amendment. Demings was a cop for 27 years and so should know better. My guess is she does know better but is willing to say whatever the political moment requires. (READ MORE from Larry Thornberry: Florida Is Not Purple — Regardless of the Dems’ Wishful Thinking)

Demings, an abortion fundamentalist, supports Democrats’ favorite medical procedure up to the moment of delivery, for which Rubio labeled her “an abortion extremist.” In answer to this, Demings went full Jerry Springer with, “No, I don’t think it’s OK for a 10-year-old girl to be raped and have to carry her rapist’s seed. No, I don’t think it’s okay for you to make decisions for women and girls. I think those decisions are made between the woman, her family, and her faith.” Rubio, who has always been pro-life, co-sponsored a bill that would make abortion illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions for rape and incest. He has supported a total ban on abortion without exceptions and said in August, “I do not believe that the dignity and worth of human life is tied to the circumstances of their conception.”

On voting laws, Demings took the well-worn and dreary Democrat mantra that any state legislators who pass laws that require voters of all complexions to properly identify themselves before casting a ballot, register on time, and show up at the right precinct are little better than Ku Kluxers determined to keep black Americans from voting. Rubio noted that meeting the requirements to vote is easy in all 50 states. And Americans need to believe that elections are honest. He pointed out that it takes proper identification to enter the upscale gated community where Demings lives in Orlando.

On foreign policy, Demings made some vague comments on how Russia and China need to be “held accountable,” but didn’t say how this could be accomplished. Rubio’s take, to put it mildly, was more detailed. The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee got a laugh from the audience with, “I was against Vladimir Putin before being against Vladimir Putin was cool.” He pointed out that we’ve outsourced the manufacturing of too many vital things, including medicine, to China and need to bring this production back home before China cuts us off.

In previous campaign statements, Rubio has said, “Demings would be the most liberal senator Florida has ever had. She has extreme positions on every issue.” Tuesday, he let it go at “She votes with Nancy Pelosi 100 percent of the time.” Fact-checkers will have a real challenge countering this one, that is, unless they’re as forensically flexible as Demings.

At the beginning and end, Demings made clear where she fits on the political spectrum. In her opening remarks, she said, “We have to get serious about climate change.” In her final summation, she ended by gigging Rubio for voting against legislation that would have capped the price of insulin. Democrats always like to set prices. It’s no mystery why we get shortages when they’re in charge.

Most polls, for whatever they’re worth, have shown Rubio with a four- to seven-point lead. The latest RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Rubio up 4.7 points. But no new polls have been taken since late September. Demings is looking for an issue, trend, or event to help her close the gap. Tuesday night almost certainly was not that event.

Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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