How will Democratic debate impact race for Florida governor?

Nikki Fried and Charlie Crist at debate
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 18:51:24-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida’s top two Democrats didn’t hold back during their only primary debate Thursday night.

How will it impact the race?

For the next few days, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Florida, and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried are set to bombard Florida Democrats with the sizzle reel from Thursday’s debate.

"I love how Charlie likes to rewrite history," Fried said Thursday.

"Stop tearing down your fellow Democrats and do what’s right to win this election in November," Crist replied.

The Crist camp us already hitting Fried hard for mistakenly saying she was pro-life.

"A lot of Karma there for continuously lying about Charlie’s record on abortion access," said Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.

Also for not returning a pledge from the Congressman to endorse if defeated.

"To not be able to say that the unity is going to happen after the primary, that didn’t sit well. In fact, that might have been the thing that sat worst with me," said Crist supporter Sean Shaw.

Fried, meanwhile, is hitting up donors with emails saying Crist was "mansplaining abortion rights, talking down to Nikki, and falling back on the argument that his nomination is inevitable."

"You have a choice. We can keep losing. Or we can try something new," Fried said Thursday.

Crist was ahead in most polling before the debate. He had more big-name endorsements and funding. Could performances Thursday change things?

"There's a lot of actually working against the effectiveness in general of a debate," said political communications expert Josh Scacco.

Scacco said an impact on the race is possible. Polls show some undecided Democrats out there. But they needed to be watching, which might have been tough.

The debate fell in the middle of the week, in summer, and competed for viewers with other high-profile events like the Jan. 6 hearings.

Ultimately, Scacco said debates don’t appear to make the difference as much as the press coverage and political posturing that comes after.

"How are clips sliced and diced by the campaigns? How do they disseminate? Are there particular moments that might become more memorable for one of the candidate?" Scacco said.

And not much time remains to be effective. The primary election is just about four weeks away, on Aug. 23.