Political reporters are used to getting deluged by emails making all sorts of claims and counter claims following a debate. So when I started getting emails sent to me about how Florida Democratic governor candidate Alex Sink “cheated” during her debate last night with Republican nominee Rick Scott, I was skeptical at first. Remember, for instance, the theory about the “mystery bulge” in President Bush’s back that conspiracy mongers claimed as evidence he was getting messages radioed to him during a debate with John Kerry. But in the case of Alex Sink, it turns out she did actually break the rules of the debate by accepting a text message from a staffer giving her advice during one of the commercial breaks. CNN, which hosted the debate, posted the video with additional details here.
Sink subsequently fired the staffer who sent the text message and tried to play dumb, but the damage has already been done to her candidacy. Sink and Scott spent the evening trading barbs over who could be trusted, but this incident severely undermines her credibility. The very best defense you can make about Sink is that this incident displays incompetence and suggests she doesn’t have the proper management skills even to control her own staff. And the sheer novelty of the story will likely ensure it gets a lot of play.