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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.”

5 Responses »

  1. In reply to Meek (who of course will bash both) the pettiness seemed to be mostly coming from Crist. All Crist wanted to do was talk about Rubio's supposed misuse of funds. Now, I didn't know either one and I am not a Floridian, but really, I would kick that Governor out in a heartbeat just from watching this segment. And Meek just shouldn't have a snowball chance in hell.

  2. I am not sure which debate John Thrasher was watching, but Marco Rubio was concentrating on the issues and Charlie Crist was focused on personal attacks. I know Charlie is the governor and the RPOF Chairman has to be careful, but to paint both candidates with the same slimey brush is just wrong.

  3. What was thrasher looking at? Rubio would talk about the issues and Crist just kept attacking Rubio! And to be fair... The two candidates only had 40 minutes not 4 hours! But Marco won this debate hands down!

  4. "I am looking forward to the next opportunity to hear more about the records and vision of Gov Crist and Speaker Rubio...." Wonder what planet Thrasher has been living on as things are "moving forward"? (Sounds like he comes from the land of "Democrats" with $400 haircuts and "Republicans" with $400 shoes.)

  5. Rubio, Rubio, Rubioooooo. Yes he did stay focused on what he would do! Old Charlie kept whining and crying about Rubio's supposedly misuse of funds, but without any FACTS! Each time Rubio would try to reply but was cut off and interrupted! Sorry Charlie - you lost and will continue to lose. Call your buddy Obama and score a cushy job from him - oh, that's right, he throws his own buddies under the bus!