Crist and Davis, 1. Chris Matthews, Zero.
The reviews are in. And the big loser in Monday's goober-natorial debate bewteen Charlie Crist, Jim Davis and Max Linn was...moderator Chris Matthews.
That's because Matthews managed to deliver a performance that played down to his worst excesses -- confirming fears that he would parachute in, clueless to Florida issues, and spend too much time making the debate about his questions rather than their answers.
As anyone who read my interview with him in Monday's paper noticed, the guy talked a good game about asking short questions and getting out of the candidates' way (by the by, if any of his questions met the five-word standard he set for himself in my interview, i didn't hear them). and for the first few minutes of monday's debate, it actually seemed he might live up to his promise.
But then -- perhaps because he was rattled by a judge's last-minute decision to force third-party candidate Linn into the mix -- Matthews let the conflict degenerate into sniping over superficial issues, as Linn broke a debate rule by addressing his opponents directly and the moderator himself compared Crist to admitted crackhead ex-mayor Marion Barry.
While Floridians are so crippled by high insurance costs they are leaving the state or losing their homes, Matthews badgered Crist and Davis about whether they would want someone's candidate choices recorded on a paper record of an electronic vote, and challenged Crist for emphasizing a reduction in most all kinds of crime in Florida except murders (which, apparently, Barry also did during an election).
If he would have done a bit of homework, Matthews would have realized some of the issues Floridians cared about were: insurance, insurance, insurance. Along with high taxes, failing schools, the FCAT system, the influence of lobbyists, the use of referendums to achieve what the legislature cannot, the growing exodus of peopel who find it too expensive to work here, the dissonance between the urbanized south Florida and countrified Panhandle, and more.
Instead, we got a confusing fight that felt more like a Saturday Night Live parody than a real debate -- right down to WFLA anchors Keith Cate and Stacie Schiable getting cut off in mid-sentence while signing off because the whole thing ran too long. My colleague, Times Political Editor Adam Smith, was much kinder here.
Here's hoping Tim Russert acquits himself better taking on Bill Nelson and Katherine Harris on Wednesday. He'll have a lot to live down.
At least, I think so. What did you think about it all? Don't save all the juicy comments for the Buzz!