Many of us were glued to the TV this morning as we watched the two Republican Senatorial candidates in Florida debate for the first time. If you tuned in thinking you were going to hear a serious discussion about the issues, you would have been profoundly disappointed. The fireworks were not about policy matters, but about about character-related issues. Asked to provide the reason why he is running for Senate, a defensive Governor Crist attacked Speaker Rubio on his spending while in the state legislature- setting the tone of the debate right from the first question instead of asserting his own credentials for the job. Rubio countered that line of attack with an effective rebuttal given at both the 15 and 40 minute marks of the debate, stating that Crist had not made one substantive argument about any of the issues, preferring to talk in vague generalities and platitudes. The Governor was content to continue discussing these allegations, as well murky the waters with verifiable untruths about Rubio’s spending practice- clearly a sign that Governor Crist feels the need to rely on mudslinging to fill the policy void in his campaign.
Governor Crist hunkered down with his support for the Obama stimulus plan, saying that if he would have been in the Senate at the time, he would have been the fourth Republican Senator to vote for the plan. Let’s not forget that the Senators who voted on the ‘Porkulus’ plan were Senators Snow(R-ME), Collins(R-ME) and Senator Arlen Specter(D-PA). Senator Specter at the time was a Republican, he later jumped ship and became a Democrat. Since Crist has adamantly stated that he would not leave the GOP and run as an Independent, he didn’t say that he wouldn’t run as a Democrat. I wrote about this very distinct possibility earlier last year. The Specter of Charlie.
It was obvious that Governor Crist did not appreciate debate moderator Chris Wallace questioning him on whether he was going to leave the party and run as an Independent. In Crist’s defense, I applaud him for showing consistency with his stances on supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants and the Obama stimulus plan. Crist reaffirmed his support for the McCain-Kennedy approach to the immigration issue. It was also evident that Crist was bothered when asked about his different stances on tax hikes.
As to Rubio, he seemed a bit flustered when he was asked about the illegal immigration issue as well.If you were to ask me who I thought won the debate, I would have to say that Marco Rubio edged out Governor Crist. Rubio clearly stated his position on the issues whereas Governor Crist failed to do so. Governor Crist also should be chided for childishly interrupting several of Rubio’s answers, and on one instance, he did not let Rubio finish his point. But perceptions matter as well as substance. Rubio needed to assert himself more throughout the debate, as he allowed Crist to keep interrupting both Wallace and himself without challenging him to stop. The best line of the day was Rubio’s, when he stated, ” I don’t remember Ronald Reagan ever being asked if he was going to run as an Independent.”