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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Who won tonight's Fla Senate debate?



Just two weeks before the Nov. 2 election that could end his long political career, Gov. Charlie Crist tried to rattle U.S. Senate frontrunner Marco Rubio by raising new questions about his character in the fourth televised U.S. Senate debate.

Crist, who is running without party affiliation, called the Republican nominee an "extreme right-wing candidate'' who would try to outlaw abortion, punish public school teachers and shear Social Security benefits. And for the the first time, Crist accused Rubio of changing his position on insurance legislation when he was House Speaker after selling his West Miami home for "cash'' to a chiropractor who was lobbying him.

Public records show the mother of chiropractor Mark Cereceda bought the house at a price that was in line with comparable home sales. Rubio called Crist's claim "categorically false'' and said the sale was "an arms-length transaction.''

"In front of a live audience in this state, he just launched a vicious personal attack on me based on a falsehood,'' Rubio shot back.

Crist interrupted: "All I've done is tell the truth.'' The two men and longtime political adversaries talked over each other until the moderator ordered them to move on.

And so the fourth of six debates for the three major Senate candidates  Rubio, Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek  came to end without any major gaffes that might disrupt a race becoming increasingly predictable. Rubio looked unsteady at times but never lost his cool.

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 12:18am]


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