Live Blogging Rather: 2nd Ratherism of the Night
By 8:30 p.m., we had our second homespun Dan Rather quote, when the Texas native noted "you can't put a cigarette paper" between warring Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Local pols such as Herb Polson, Earnest Williams and Jamie Bennett sat in the audience at Eckerd College's Miller Auditorium. Demand prompted the college to open up its much larger Fox Hall for observers to watch a simulcast.
So far, the discussion has been informative, if low key and a bit wonky. George Lemieux, a former staffer for Gov. Charlie Christ, joined the two political consultants with Rather onstage, drawing chuckles when he noted that officials had a bit of trouble with touch screens in Palm Beach County -- deja vu all over again! -- but expected few glitches besides. (he also stressed the touch screens will be gone by November's presidential election)
Rather also offered an update on his voting machines story.
With 44 percent of precincts reporting, McCain still has 34 percent compared to Romney's 32 percent. Lemieux claimed 40 percent of people questioned in one poll said Crist's endorsement of McCain changed their vote (I know we have a popular governor, but really!) He also noted that McCain's ability to take Giuliani votes and Romney's ability to take Huckabee votes may decide the contest.
Each consultant also had at least one good line. Red stater Mike Murphy noted the high volume of robotic phone calls, saying "I always though the one tax a candidate could run on was a tax on automated phone calls (applause); people hate them, but they're really cheap." Democrat Donnie Fowler noted blue staters were 10 times more pessimistic about the economy "because Republicans watch Fox News, which tells them everything is great...maybe you believe what you want to hear."
Fowler also read off emails from both the Obama and Clinton campaigns spinning the election results (Obama's people called a tie with Clinton; both got zero delegates). He also found it surprising that Hillary Clinton hasn't yet earned more than 50 percent of the vote, despite status as the best know candidate in a field which didn't campaign here.
Fortunately, the commercial breaks are short, giving Rather lots of time to speak on the unfolding drama. Prepared pieces on the I-4 corridor and election machine controversies also helped keep the evening humming along.
Murphy's big prediction: both Romney and McCain are going to try and get Giuliani and Huckabee out of the race, to try and get voters friendly to those candidates to turn their way during Super Tuesday. No wonder these guys get six-figure consulting fees!