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Charlie Crist has to tread warily in Kendrick Meek, Marco Rubio TV debates

Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek have agreed to at least five televised Senate debates, potentially putting Charlie Crist in a lose-lose position.

The events are almost guaranteed to feature both the Democratic and Republican nominees hammering Crist for flip-flops or vague positions. And every time Crist takes a clear-cut position on a hot-button issue, he risks antagonizing voters on either end of the political spectrum.

That probably explains why so far Crist has accepted one debate invitation: a CNN-St. Petersburg Times one on Oct. 24 at the University of South Florida moderated by Candy Crowley.

But at least six other debates are tentatively scheduled, the first Sept. 5 on NBC's Meet the Press. If Crist skips them, he gives Meek the chance to raise his profile at the expense of Crist's Democratic support. (Not to mention that he taunted Rubio for not appearing on Meet the Press earlier this year: "Doesn't he want to meet the press?" Crist asked.)

Here's the proposed debate schedule:

Sept. 5: NBC's Meet the Press.

Sept. 17: WLTV-Ch. 23 (Univision), Miami.

Sept. 28: WTVT-Ch. 13 (Fox), Tampa.

Oct. 6: ABC News, WFTV-Ch. 9, Orlando, and WFTS-Ch. 28, Tampa, moderated by George Stephanopoulos, Orlando.

Oct. 19: Leadership Florida, Fort Lauderdale.

Oct. 24: CNN-St. Petersburg Times, Tampa.

Oct. 26: NBC News and WESH-Ch. 2, Orlando, moderated by David Gregory, Orlando.

Schmoozing begins

The Republican establishment locked down campaign donations and aggressively attacked Rick Scott during the gubernatorial primary. Now that he's the nominee, though, lobbyists, legislative leaders and money-raisers are leaping onto the Scott train. He is scheduled to meet with fundraisers at the Tampa Club and hold rallies in Tampa and Orlando, along with Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon.

Caught in the middle

A few weeks ago we noted that the Rubio campaign had gotten its hands on a 2006 recorded message from Crist and was eagerly talking about using his own words to leave messages with Democratic voters:

"Hi, this is Charlie Crist calling to set the record straight. I'm pro-life. I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants, I support traditional marriage, and I have never supported a new tax or big spending program. … Floridians need a consistent conservative."

Doesn't exactly sound like Mr. Independent.

Turns out Democrats found the same clip and are sending the message into 500,000 Democratic households.

Tyson stood in Greene's corner

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart last week took notice of Florida's Democratic Senate primary. Among other things, he noted Jeff Greene's best man at his wedding was boxer Mike Tyson and that at one debate, Kendrick Meek told Greene, "I have more integrity in my pinky than you have in your whole body."

"Be careful," Stewart warned, "his best man will bite off that pinky and eat it."

Sink ad draws Republican's praise

Republican consultant Frank Luntz has been testing campaign ads with voters recently on Fox News, and raved about the spot for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink by media consultant Rich Davis: "If ads are any impact on the campaign, and we know that they are, she's running the best statewide campaign of any of the candidates."

Adam Smith is on Twitter at AdamSmithTimes and can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com.

Winners

of the week

Pam Bondi and Dan Gelber. The Republican and Democratic candidates for attorney general were overshadowed by higher-profile races but pulled off comfortable wins in tough and unpredictable primaries.

Losers

of the week

Dean Cannon and Mike Haridopolos. The House speaker-designate and Senate president-designate, apparently terrified of outsider Rick Scott as the gubernatorial nominee, spent millions trying to crush him, failed, and now have to make nice with someone who owes them nothing.

Loser

of the decade

Bill McCollum. Somehow loser of the week doesn't suffice for someone who has now lost three statewide races — two of them rejections by his own party. If only he'd decided to coast to another term as attorney general …

Charlie Crist has to tread warily in Kendrick Meek, Marco Rubio TV debates 08/28/10 [Last modified: Saturday, August 28, 2010 9:55pm]
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