The question from Mr. Masters was a rare chance for the governor to make his single best argument in one place.
“Well, I think a few things. One is, I think I’m much more likely to actually get elected, which is very important. I could serve two terms. He’d be a lame duck on Day 1 even if he could get elected. I have a track record of appointing really good people to office. I think he appointed a lot of duds to office, and it really hurt his ability to get his agenda done. I also think I’m more likely to follow through on doing what I said I would do. You look in Florida, everything I promised, I did. I never made a promise that I didn’t follow through on, and that’s just how I am. I am not going to sit there and tell you something that you want to hear to try to get your vote, and then get in and just forget that it ever happened.”
That was only the first 45 seconds of Mr. DeSantis’s answer, in which he listed not just one of his selling points but many, contrasting his record of success in Florida with Mr. Trump’s failure to build the border wall or “drain the swamp.” But his argument felt more like a series of bullet points than a comprehensive political vision.
He went on for much longer, mentioning Mr. Trump’s unrealized promise to “lock up” Hillary Clinton and accusing him of handing over his congressional agenda to Paul Ryan, the former Republican speaker of the House who is now seen by some in the G.O.P. as insufficiently conservative.
True to his debate performance and campaign trail events, Mr. DeSantis never delivered a real punch.
Why It Matters
The governor’s path to victory is based on a slow-and-steady approach. While Mr. DeSantis may not have had a breakout moment at the debate on Wednesday, Republican voters thought he performed best of all the candidates, according to a snap poll by the Washington Post, FiveThirtyEight and Ipsos. And his campaign said he raised more than $1 million the following day, the most it has raised in 24 hours, apart from the day Mr. DeSantis announced he was running.