What to expect from first and only debate between DeSantis, Crist

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis will take the stage against former congressman and former Gov. Charlie Crist for their one and only debate on Monday evening.

The face-off comes as more than 1 million Floridians have already voted with many counties starting early voting Monday.


Eight years ago when Crist challenged Rick Scott for governor, polling indicated a very tight race with Crist slightly ahead heading into their debates. Now, polling shows DeSantis with a sizable lead and very few persuadable voters remaining.

“I don’t think it’s going to move things very much … we have already started the election,” UCF political science professor Dr. John Hanley said.

Read: DeSantis, Crist to square off Monday in only Florida governor debate

Hanley points out the time for persuasion was weeks, if not months ago, with the two most recent polls of the state showing DeSantis with a double-digit lead over Crist.

“Former Gov. Charlie Crist had a limited opportunity to change the dynamics of this race and Hurricane Ian took two to three weeks of attention away from you know election politics,” Hanley said.

Dr. Michael Binder, who handles polling for the University of North Florida, said swings can still happen, but the late date of the debate and the fact that 1 million votes are already locked in make it less likely.

Read: Florida says more than 600K have already voted by mail in upcoming midterm election

“I don’t know how much this is going to change anything outside of something crazy or dramatic happening,” Binder said.

While undecided voters do still exist, Binder said the state has shifted to the right, at least in registration numbers.

Binder’s research shows voters are looking at pocketbook issues, including the fact that Florida homeowners are paying three times the national average for insurance.

Read: Florida Election Day 2022: Critical deadlines you need to know

“You were going to see them probably talking past each other on some things and having just not necessarily a concrete discussion on the same issues but a talking around each other tonight,” Binder said.

There is also the question of affordability, as skyrocketing prices for homes and rent are putting the squeeze on many Floridians.

It’s a question both candidates will likely have to answer Monday night.

Read: 2022 Election Day: Are banks open? Will mail be delivered? What’s open, closed?

“I think one of the things we can expect from Crist is to say that DeSantis has routinely ignored these issues,” Binder said.

Hanley expects Crist to hammer DeSantis on ignoring insurance and cost of living in favor of social issues. On that topic, there is also the question of abortion, and if Florida will push additional restrictions this year or next.

“I think it will be on the list of things that Crist attempts to bring into the debate,” Hanley said.

You can watch the debate live starting at 7 p.m. on Channel 9.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.