Make us your home page

Charlie Crist targeted by Kendrick Meek, Marco Rubio in final U.S. Senate debate

ORLANDO — The portable fan that Gov. Charlie Crist insists on at every public appearance could be seen and even heard during Tuesday's televised debate, but it didn't keep the independent U.S. Senate candidate out of the hot seat.

In Crist's last chance to chip away at frontrunner Marco Rubio, with only one week left before the Nov. 2 election, the governor frequently found himself playing defense in response to tough questions from debate moderator David Gregory of NBC's Meet the Press.

In three separate lines of questioning, Gregory pressed Crist to explain his defection from the Republican Party, unwillingness to say which party he would caucus with in Congress if elected, and his changed positions on issues like adoption by same-sex couples, which he now favors.

Holding up a copy of the Republican Party platform, Gregory asked, "Were you unaware that was an entrenched part of the Republican Party, or did somehow you change for political expediency?"

"I haven't changed," Crist said. "What changed is the Republican Party, particularly the right wing of the Republican Party."

Later, Crist added: "This is a heartfelt change of views, and only I can know that, and people will believe it or not."

Polls suggest the people aren't buying it. Crist has been the runnerup for weeks, with Democrat Kendrick Meek in third place. A confident-looking Rubio even sought to rise above the fray during their sixth debate, passing up two opportunities to criticize Crist and saying he would rather talk about "the issues."

Rubio delivered his typically polished performance, though he struggled to explain how he would pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and how high the retirement age for Social Security should be raised. A favorite among conservative tea party activists, Rubio stole some of Crist's thunder by blaming both the Republicans and the Democrats for national woes.

"For too long, Washington has had us on the wrong road," Rubio said. "Both parties are to blame for this."

Again and again, Gregory came back to Crist. "You've dodged this question for months," he said, asking Crist whether he would align himself with Democrats or Republicans in Washington. "Does it mean your vote is for sale?"

Crist fumbled a bit about before saying, "I would make a decision that's in the best interest of my fellow Floridians." He tried to make the case that Rubio is offering a ''pessimistic'' approach, but it didn't square with Rubio's telegenic appearance and his repeated affirmations about America as the world's greatest country.

One of the only times Crist got in a dig at Rubio was in response to a question about housing foreclosures. "It's an epidemic. Some at this table have faced close to foreclosure," Crist said, though casual observers of the race wouldn't know he was talking about Rubio's home in Tallahassee.

Meek, who is wrestling with Crist for Democratic voters, pitched himself as the true believer in abortion rights, adoption by same-sex couples and equal pay for women and men. ''When I hear flip-flops in the hallway, I think it's the governor walking down the hall," Meek quipped.

Later, when Gregory asked him about his voting record in Congress, Meek replied: "I'm a Democrat for sure, you can count on that."

Meek got in a quick jab at Rubio, who has portrayed himself as a political outsider in the campaign even though he has spent most of his career in public office.

"This man was the speaker of the House of Representatives," Meek said. "He was not a back bencher."

Now that the debates are over, the candidates will begin a final statewide push to get their supporters to the polls by Nov. 2.

Rubio kicks off a bus tour today in Pensacola that will zigzag around the state until Sunday.

Meek is dividing most of his time between South and Central Florida, culminating Monday evening with three back-to-back rallies in West Palm Beach, Pompano Beach and Miami.

Crist embarks on a statewide bus tour from the Panhandle starting Friday.

Charlie Crist targeted by Kendrick Meek, Marco Rubio in final U.S. Senate debate 10/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 8:51am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Report slams Pinellas construction licensing agency and leaders

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board mismanaged its finances, lacked accountability and disregarded its own rules, according to a scathing report released Wednesday by the county's inspector general.

    Rodney Fischer, the executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board, resigned in January.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. A meatless burger that tastes like meat? Ciccio Restaurants will serve the Impossible Burger.

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA — The most red-hot hamburger in the nation right now contains no meat.

    Ciccio executive chef Luis Flores prepares an Impossible Burger Wednesday at the Epicurean Hotel Food Theatre in Tampa.
  3. Construction starts on USF medical school, the first piece of Tampa's Water Street project


    TAMPA — Dozens of workers in hard hats and boots were busy at work at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive Wednesday morning, signaling the start of construction on the University of South Florida's new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

    Construction is underway for the new Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health Heart Institute in downtown Tampa. This view is from atop Amalie Arena, where local officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate the first piece of what will be the new Water Street District. The USF building is expected to open in late 2019. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]
  4. Tampa Bay among top 25 metro areas with fastest growing economies

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy among 382 metro areas in the country for 2016. According to an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product, or GDP, increased 4.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to hit $126.2 billion.

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy in the country for 2016. Rentals were one of the areas that contributed to Tampa Bay's GDP growth. Pictured is attorney David Eaton in front of his rental home. 
  5. Tampa Bay cools down to more moderate home price increases

    Real Estate

    The increase in home prices throughout much of the Tampa Bay area is definitely slowing from the torrid rate a year ago.

    This home close to Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa sold for $3.055 million in August, making it Hillsborough County's top sale of the month. [Courtesy of Bredt Cobitz]