The debates are done in the Florida governor’s race, and this is probably a good thing for both candidates, two strange fellows who don’t present well behind the podium.
Last night’s CNN Hour was mostly just more nyah, nyah, nyah. People who understand the issues facing Florida have already made up their mind who they will vote for. Those who don’t got no help from either Republican incumbent Rick Scott or former Florida governor and Democrat challenger Charlie Crist. At least there was no argument over a fan, which Crist somehow managed to do without.
Scott again charged that Florida lost 832,000 jobs while Crist was governor. A stupid charge as this happened during the global economic meltdown. Crist sensibly countered that he wasn’t responsible for the meltdown, just as Scott wasn’t responsible for the recovery. What both men did in the economic sphere and how these things affect the economy was overlooked for the hyperbolic charges.
Crist again charged that Scott is an insensitive rich guy who doesn’t care about Florida’s poor and middle class. He said Scott doesn’t understand the needs of struggling Floridians and just supports big business. “Rick is fighting for big utilities,” Crist grumped. He also charged that Scott is allowing insurance rates to climb. “I’m running to defend the middle class,” he crooned.
Scott charged that Crist doesn’t understand a thing about the economy or how to create jobs while, he, Scott does and has in fact revived the Florida economy. “This state is now on a roll,” he bragged. He also reiterated that he came up in a very poor family while Charlie is the son of a physician and came up comfortably in the middle class.
Scott said Crist was a crook because he got campaign contributions and support from a guy who was later convicted of running a Ponzi scheme, and Crist’s handpicked chairman of the Republican Party went to prison for looting party funds. Crist said he had no idea these guys were bad apples. Crist then went on to rehash the charge that Scott’s health care firm paid record fines for Medicare fraud. Scott’s response was that he had “taken responsibility” for the problems at his company, though it’s hard to say what this means.
Crist suggested Scott was a grinch for not expanding Medicaid in Florida. Scott said Crist was profligate because he “borrowed $9 billion” while governor. Crist gigged Scott for turning down $2 billion in federal funds for a high-speed rail project between Tampa and Orlando. (Two cities that are already connected by an interstate highway.) Crist said the rail project would have created 60,000 jobs, a number just as unbelievable as the 20,000 teachers jobs Crist said he saved by accepting federal “stimulus” funds.
Crist said he is in favor of raising Florida’s minimum wage to $10.10 because folks need the extra money. Scott said he was against it because it would kill jobs. There followed a school-yard back and to with Crist charging that Scott doesn’t care about the folks having difficulty getting by on the current $7.93 minimum wage and Scott charging that Crist doesn’t care about the people who would be unemployed if the minimum wage is increased.
There were other differences. Crist wishes to issue drivers licenses to citizens of other countries here illegally. Scott doesn’t. Crist wants to lift the Cuban embargo. Scott doesn’t. Crist wants the voting rights of felons convicted of non-violent crimes to be restored as soon as they’ve finished their sentences. Scott doesn’t.
Some of the exchanges were heated. At one point Scott called Crist “a divider and a mud-slinger.” At another juncture Crist called Scott a “liar.” Both candidates bobbed and weaved around tough questions, but Scott dodged more. Direct questions that Scott circled around but wouldn’t answer, even when prompted by a follow-up, included but are not limited to: Is man-made climate change a problem? Do you support a “path to citizenship” in immigration reform legislation? Do young black males get a fair shake from Florida’s criminal justice system? (The answer is yes — but Scott wouldn’t say it.)
And so it finally ended. A lot of heat but very little light. Viewers were an hour older but no wiser.
There was hope in the Crist campaign last week that Scott’s delayed appearance at the Oct. 15 debate and his objection to the fan Charlie had under his podium would cost Scott some support. Scott certainly did look petty objecting and making it to the stage six minutes late in protest, even though it has been determined that the rules prohibited the fan. But no windfall for Charlie has been detected yet.
Two polls taken after fangate remain, as almost all polls in this race have remained for weeks, within the margin of error. One, by a small local polling firm, shows Crist with a two-point advantage. A Rasmussen poll puts the race dead even at 47-47. Clearly Floridians don’t fancy either of these flawed candidates very much, but are maddeningly evenly divided about which one they don’t fancy the most.
Rasmussen turned up some other interesting numbers. Of those who tell Rasmussen they are certain of their vote, Scott holds a narrow 51-49 lead. It’s 48 to 47 Scott among those who say they are certain they will vote. Among those who say they might change their mind about who to vote for, Crist leads 41 to 32. Among voters with no party affiliation Crist leads 46 to 41. Scott leads Crist 44 to 40 on whom voters trust to deal with government spending. Voters trust Crist more on social issues 45 to 40.
Meanwhile political household names have been turning up in Florida for both candidates. Scott has enjoyed campaign boosts from Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush. Sunshine State News is reporting that Da Mare himself, Rudy Giuliani, will campaign for Scott today in ex-New Yorker-rich Miami and Doral. Crist has been whooped up by both Clintons and both Bidens.
Even the First Spouse was in Florida for Crist Friday in Orlando and Miami Gardens. Perhaps between urging Floridians to vote for Crist and other Democrats, Charlie and Michelle had a chance to share some celery and carrot sticks. The nearly anorexic Crist, who famously eats only one small meal per day and avoid carbs like Count Dracula avoids sunlight, is the future if Michelle’s astringent dietary preferences catch on.
In less than two weeks, the Lord be praised, this sulfurous, unedifying, and thoroughly nasty campaign will be over. And one of these guys that Floridians don’t care for much will be governor until January of 2019. Conservatives hope the survivor will be Scott, who, politically unskilled as he is, ran a reasonably competent center-right Florida for four years. Liberals hope it will be the ever-changeable Crist, a man even they recognize is a flake. But, at least for the moment, their flake.