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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Lively, aggressive senate debate gives way to energized Meek



Let's get the conversation started about tonight's fast-moving, aggressive debate between Marco Rubio, Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek.

The surprise of the night was Meek, the Democrat trailing in the polls, money and enthusiasm. Meek was strong throughout the hour, landing some of the best lines -- "Charlie Crist stands on a wet paper box ... because you don’t know where he is." -- and scrambling the dynamic for Rubio, who could previously count on Meek to primarily focus on Crist.

Meek forcefully defended the stimulus and the health care plan and blasted Rubio as trying to undo the good he says has come from the landmark legislation. Confronting doubters within his own party, he declared, "This race is far from over."

Rubio had to deflect salvos from both men and continued to push his message that America -- and Washington -- is headed in the wrong direction. "Congressman Meek, the stimulus is a massive failure," he said. He called for the repeal of health care and the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

Literally sitting between the sniping Rubio and Meek, Crist said: "These two guys are going at each other because one is the Republican right, the other is the Democratic left." Of Rubio he said, "You haven't been drinking the Kool-Aid, my friend. You've been drinking too much tea."

But Crist's shifting positions on health care, on President Obama and gay adoption provided his opponents the chance to define him as an opportunist who will say anything.

In all, it boiled down to two against one. Rubio was battered but held his own.

[Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2010 5:33pm]


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