On debate day in Florida, DeSantis looms large for both parties: The Note

The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll makes clear how central he has already become.

October 24, 2022, 6:05 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Monday night brings the first and only debate featuring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist.

DeSantis, though, could be on bigger debate stages as soon as next summer. It would actually be surprising at this stage if he chose next year not to run for president in 2024 -- only underscoring how outsized his presence is inside both Republican and Democratic circles in the final two weeks of 2022 voting.

The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll makes clear how central a figure he has already become. Among Republican registered voters, 72% said they want DeSantis to have either a "great deal" or a "good amount" of influence over the future of the party.

That's the highest figure among 10 nationally prominent GOP names tested. Former President Donald Trump was second, with 64% saying the same about that other Florida resident who might run in 2024.

There is no comparable figure to DeSantis on the Democratic bench. Among Democratic voters in the same poll, 83% said they want former President Barack Obama to have significant influence going forward -- ahead of President Joe Biden's 69% and Vice President Kamala Harris' 65%, and well ahead of other potential 2024 challengers.

Through the issues the Florida governor has put himself front and center on -- immigration and the southern border, abortion access, redistricting, voting rights and overall hostility to the Biden administration -- DeSantis has built fierce GOP loyalty while also making himself central to Democrats' political future.

All of which leads back to the debate on Monday. Crist has worked to turn DeSantis' ambitions against him: "He doesn't care about working folks. You know what he cares about? Running for president in 2024," Crist said at a Democratic National Committee rally last week.

After a brief thaw in a tense DeSantis-Biden relationship, due to Hurricane Ian, the White House announced that Biden will headline a campaign event in South Florida next Tuesday -- one week out from Election Day.

It figures to be a relatively rare-for-this-cycle midterm rally featuring the president. It's in part an acknowledgment that this and countless other races happening in 2022 matter for 2024.

PHOTO: Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign event in Tampa, Fla., Oct. 21, 2022.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a campaign event in Tampa, Fla., Oct. 21, 2022.
Jefferee Woo/Tampa Bay Times via Zumapress

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

A federal court last week issued a temporary block of President Biden's student debt forgiveness program pending a lawsuit by several red states -- and the legal challenge now stands to jeopardize the fulfillment of a campaign promise and a pillar of the Biden administration's economic relief efforts.

The stay is the result of a suit by Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina. Still, the White House has encouraged borrowers to continue to register to have their eligibility reviewed pending the court's decision.

In a USA Today op-ed on Saturday, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona indicated that the administration will forge ahead with the program.

"President Biden and this administration will never stop fighting for the millions of hardworking students and borrowers across the country — no matter how many elected officials or lawsuits try to stop us," Cardona wrote.

He framed student debt cancellation as a part of Biden's broader economic agenda, like the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a key part of the president's pitch ahead of the midterms. But that seems to be falling flat as inflation continues to rise and polls show voters continue to disapprove of Biden while preferring the GOP on the economy.

Now, legal obstacles for student debt relief are complicating another portion of what Democrats hope will be a winning message that could help galvanize young voters, voters of color and low- and middle-income voters (who would benefit from debt relief) in big battlegrounds.

PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona attend a panel discussion in Orangeburg, S.C., Sept. 20, 2022.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona attend a panel discussion in Orangeburg, S.C., Sept. 20, 2022.
Getty Images, FILE

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

The last two weeks of campaigning could feel uncomfortably tense for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in several states including Arizona, New York, Oregon and Wisconsin.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, like many other Democrats across the country, has spent months drumming up support through rhetoric surrounding the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade's guarantee of abortion access. But that may not be enough: A Quinnipiac University poll released last week showed a tight lead for Hochul over Republican candidate Lee Zeldin despite Democrats' perennial strength in the deep-blue state.

According to Quinnipiac, Hochul is up 50% to Zeldin's 46%. The margin could reflect Zeldin's increased targeting of the top two issues on poll respondents' minds -- crime and concerns over inflation. In the waning days of the general election, Hochul has adjusted her messaging to also include safety and the economy.

Despite those hurdles, FiveThirtyEight's gubernatorial forecast still has Hochul strongly favored to keep her seat, but other Democrats may face a tougher battle. According to the forecast, Wisconsin's incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is in a dead heat with Republican challenger Tim Michels. Although Biden recently hit the trail in Oregon, a similar outlook faces Democrat Tina Kotek who is in a tight matchup with Republican Christine Drazan while also hoping to keep voters from favoring independent candidate Betsy Johnson.

Meanwhile, Arizona remains one of the most high-profile gubernatorial races in the country given ongoing false claims of 2020 election denial espoused by Trump-backed Republican nominee Kari Lake. According to FiveThirtyEight, two weeks out from Nov. 8, Lake is slightly favored to win the race over Democrat Katie Hobbs.

In a special edition of ABC's "This Week" in Arizona on Sunday, co-anchor Jonathan Karl spoke with Lake and asked her if she would accept the outcome of her race if she were to lose. She offered what appeared to be a to-be-determined caveat in her response.

"I will accept the results of this election if we have a fair, honest and transparent election. Absolutely, 100%," she said.

PHOTO: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, speaks during a New York State Police graduation ceremony at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, Oct. 19, 2022.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, speaks during a New York State Police graduation ceremony at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, Oct. 19, 2022.
Hans Pennink/AP


Hannah Demissie is one of seven ABC News campaign reporters embedded in battleground states ahead of the November midterms, as featured on Hulu's "Power Trip: Those Seeking Power and Those Who Chase Them." Demissie is covering Missouri and North Carolina. Here, she describes what she saw and heard in North Carolina as early voting got underway last week -- and the candidates made appeals on abortion and the economy -- with control of Congress hanging in the balance. https://abcn.ws/3eYpnCV


Power Trip

"Power Trip: Those Seeking Power and Those Who Chase Them" follows 7 young reporters as they chase down candidates in the lead up to the midterms with George Stephanopoulos guiding them along the way.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins Monday morning with ABC’s Rachel Scott on a new ABC News/Ipsos poll showing what issues are top of mind for voters nearly two weeks ahead of the midterm elections. Then ABC news contributor Col. Stephen Ganyard explains what Xi Jinping’s expansion of power in China means globally. And, ABC News contributor John Brownstein breaks down the latest on COVID-19 as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tests positive for the virus. http://apple.co/2HPocUL


  • President Joe Biden delivers remarks to the Democratic National Committee staff and volunteers in Washington, D.C. at 1:10 p.m. ET. Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a reception to celebrate Diwali in the East Room.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic rival Charlie Crist attend a debate at 7 p.m. ET.
  • Early voting begins in Florida and Texas.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Tuesday for the latest.

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