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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio gets frontrunner treatment in contentious Senate debate



ORLANDO — Marco Rubio got the frontrunner treatment in a combative U.S. Senate debate Wednesday night, with both his rivals attacking him as a right-wing extremist out of step with Florida voters.

"It's abundantly clear that there's an extreme right faction in the Republican party," said independent candidate Charlie Crist, who defected from the GOP five months ago. "I'm the only candidate that can both win in November and crash that tea party in Washington."

"You want to take us back to Dick Cheney days," added the Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, describing Rubio as a "radical'' who won't stand up for middle-class Floridians.

Rubio, the former state House Speaker from Miami, held his own and cast the race as a choice between two status quo candidates or a Republican who will stand up to President Obama's agenda.

"If you like Obamacare, if you like the stimulus plan, you can vote for Charlie Crist or Kendrick Meek. I'm probably not your candidate," Rubio said. (story here / pool photo Joe Burbank)

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


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