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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The Battle in West Palm



Who is the true conservative and who is faking it? If there was any theme to tonight's bruising debate between Charlie Crist and Tom Gallager, it was that.


Both men positioned themselves as the next Jeb Bush, while painting the each other as untrustworthy. "Come on, Tom, you're no conservative and we know that," Crist said. Several times Crist said his opponent supported a 1-cent tax increase to pay for new prisons, noting Gallagher once stood behind a giant penny to push the idea.

Gallagher compared his opponent to Howard Dean (civil unions) and John Kerry (abortion). He tried to get Crist to answer "yes or no" whether he would sign a bill banning abortion. But Crist's response was long and nuanced. "Republican voters just can't trust Charlie Crist on issues that are important to them," Gallagher said in his closing statement.

The one-hour debate, shown live on NBC affiliates took a sharp turn about 20 minutes in when the candidates were allowed to question each other. Both seemed to duck at times, Crist on the class size amendment and its cost implications and Gallagher on the ethics complaints pending against him.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:40pm]


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