JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam exchanged insults and name calling Wednesday in their final debate before Florida’s Republican primary for governor, as Putnam tried to regain momentum lost after President Donald Trump endorsed DeSantis.
Putnam called DeSantis “the ‘Seinfeld’ candidate” — a reference the television show that’s supposedly about nothing and an attack on DeSantis for spending more time on Fox News than campaigning in the state.
Later, DeSantis called Putnam the “errand boy for U.S. Sugar,” referring to hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions Putnam has received from the sugar industry. That was in the first 15 minutes of the hour-long debate. It got nastier from there.
Putnam tried to undercut the Trump endorsement by depicting DeSantis as out of touch with Florida issues and a candidate who hasn’t revealed a plan for running the state.
“President Trump ran on a plan. You knew exactly what you were going to get,” Putnam said. “You’re running on an endorsement. It takes more than that to serve 21 million people in the third largest state.”
Putnam was leading in polls until Trump backed DeSantis. Now polls show DeSantis ahead less than three weeks before the Aug. 28 primary, and it was clear Putnam was trying to address the Trump issue head on.
“I wish he hadn’t put the thumb on the scale of Florida’s campaign,” Putnam said before turning to DeSanits. “Having the Trump card is the only card you have — and it’s a big one — but it still means you’re not playing with a full deck.”
DeSantis shot back, “This is a guy who when we were trying to beat Hillary Clinton said Trump was vile, obscene, dishonorable. Never showed up at a single rally. You could have put his picture on a milk carton — no one knew where he was during the campaign.”