Crist, Rubio Declare Victory
Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio each claimed victory after the first debate in their contentious race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.
For 40 minutes, Crist and Rubio answered questions from Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace about the federal economic stimulus package, health care, social security, immigration and their records in state government. And when it was all over, each side believed they had fresh momentum in their increasingly fractious contest.
Crist’s campaign accused Rubio of ducking tough questions about his finances, which the governor has sought to turn into an issue as he has fallen behind in polls about the race.
“Character and ethics have become a main issue in this campaign, and Charlie Crist demonstrated, yet again … that he is the candidate voters can trust,” Crist’s Communications Director Andrea Saul said in a statement.
Rubio’s campaign of course saw it differently, saying Crist was more focused in the debate on attacking Rubio than talking about what he would do as U.S. Senator.
“This…debate was a clear victory for Marco Rubio as he showed why he is the only candidate in this Senate race that can be trusted to go to Washington, stand up to the Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Meek agenda and offer a clear alternative,” Rubio’s communications director Alex Burgos said in statement. “Marco won because he talked about big issues and conservative alternatives. On the other hand, Charlie Crist was given numerous opportunities to talk about why he’s running for Senate but instead chose to falsely attack Marco Rubio.”
With the debate taking place days after a Mason-Dixon poll showed Rubio to be leading the race 48-37 percent, Burgos said that Crist needed to do more than hold serve in the debate.
“Charlie Crist needed a knockout blow, but instead he was blown away by his own record and persistent focus on petty attacks,’ he said.
The chairman of the state’s Republican Party, Sen. John Thrasher, was one of the few observers who didn’t seem to be spinning – saying he was kind of disappointed with both candidates.
“While I appreciate our candidates’ passion for this race and strong desire to serve, I was disappointed in some instances when they appeared to be moving away from the issues and utilizing personal attacks, which I don’t believe benefit the people of Florida, or our party,” Thrasher said in a statement. “I am looking forward to the next opportunity to hear more about the records and vision of Gov. Crist and Speaker Rubio, and hope that moving forward our candidates concentrate solely on discussing the issues that are important to the voters of our state.”
Likely Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek, who went unmentioned in Sunday’s debate, saw it differently, saying that the debate did not help either of his potential GOP opponents.
"This was a debate between two feuding rivals who put their personal, petty disputes ahead of the needs of hardworking Floridians,” Meek said in a statement released by his campaign. “We didn't hear solutions to Florida's problems today, just more ideological rhetoric that does nothing to reverse the greatest economic meltdown to affect Florida families in generations.”