Rubio vs. Demings in a spirited U.S. Senate race in Florida
Besides that for governor, there is another high-profile statewide race in Florida leading to the November 8 election — U.S. Senate.
It’s becoming a case of dueling campaign ads. In the red corner, incumbent Republican Marco Rubio.
“Demings votes with Pelosi 100% of the time," Rubio said in one of his political ads. "She called abolishing the police thoughtful, Demings said violent riots were a beautiful sight. Instead of voting to condemn radicals who want to abolish police, Demings refused. It's dangerous.”
And in the blue corner is the challenger, Democratic nominee Val Demings.
“It's outrageous to mandate what a woman can and can't do with their body,” she said in one of her ads. “Marco Rubio wants to criminalize abortion with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. Rape is a crime. Incest is a crime. Abortion is not.”
Rubio was re-elected in 2016 after a failed presidential campaign. Demings, a former Orlando police chief, has represented Florida’s 10th U.S. House district since 2017.
“I see a similarly negative race that reflects the stiff competition between the two parties in our political system,” said Adam Cayton, a political scientist at the University of West Florida.
“What I'm noticing in that race is that both candidates are applying messages that their national parties are using, overwhelmingly so,” Cayton said. “That race contents of its campaign don't really stand out all that much to me as they're both making similar appeals to other candidates that they're parties.”
The national talking points applied to Florida races, says Cayton, serve as something of a disservice to Floridians.
“I think we're smart enough and grown up enough to think through some of the complexities of public policy. But as far as what they should care about, they should talk about things that affect everybody: the environment, the economy, public safety, all that stuff. People care about a lot of things, and they should.”Adam Cayton, UWF Professor
One of the areas where the two are clashing is showing up for work. According to ProPublica, Demings has missed two-tenths of a percent of votes in the current 117th Congress. This makes her the 360th most absent member of the House.
Rubio, meanwhile, has missed five percent of votes in this Congress says ProPublica, and is the 29th most absent member of the Senate. Naturally, both candidates are picking up on it.
“But, Marco, you've got one of the worst attendance records in the Senate," Demings has said. "When Florida needs you, you just don't show up.”
“You know that? My opponent Val Demings, you know how many times she's voted from her pajamas or whatever she was wearing because they have this thing called proxy voting. She can be anywhere on the planet," Rubio countered last month.
Demings, as mentioned, is basing a portion of her campaign on the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. Cayton says the issue is expected could affect the senate race, albeit indirectly.
“That seems like it would boost democratic fortunes a little bit. Now, whether it's enough to swing this particular race or any other particular race, I have no idea,” said Cayton. “But the public tends to respond to policy via backlash. So anger about something that's happened that people don't like is often more emotionally powerful than desire for something in the future.”
As is the case in just about every state and national campaign of late, it appears that the shadow of Donald Trump is over the Florida senate race, dating back to when he and Rubio ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
“Problem with Marco, he's a choke artist, he chokes," said Trump during the 2016 campaign. “I've never seen anything like that. I was standing right next to him. I look over (and) I say, ‘you okay?’ It looked like he just came out of a swimming pool. He was soaking wet, and he kept repeating himself — repeating himself.”
At that time, Rubio did fire back at Trump in his rallies.
“We have a con artist as the front runner in the Republican Party," said Rubio. "A guy who has made a career out of telling people lies, so that they come in and buy his product or whatever he does. We cannot allow the conservative movement to be taken over by a con artist because the stakes are too high.”
Based on polling, said Cayton, the Marco Rubio-Val Demings matchup looks a bit closer than the 2016 race between Rubio and Democrat Patrick Murphy, but adds he wouldn’t attribute that to something that happened six years ago.