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Breaking down Florida's U.S. Senate debate

The only debate in Florida's U.S. Senate race was Wednesday night at Nova Southeastern University in Davie.

See chart below.


Connie Mack IV, 45

U.S. representative elected in 2004, previously served in Florida House. Married with two children, two stepchildren.
Bill Nelson, 70

U.S. senator elected in 2000, previously served as congressman, state legislator, insurance commissioner. Married with two children.
Quote I
"There is a clear choice between Sen. Nelson and me. You see, Bill Nelson cast the deciding vote to cut $700 billion out of your Medicare to pay for Obamacare. I voted against Obamacare. Bill Nelson, he voted to gut our military. I voted to strengthen our military." "Everything that the congressman has just said is not true. And that's part of the problem in our politics today. It's so polarized. It's so excessively partisan. … It's my way or no way. The way you run the government of the United States, is you respect the other fellow's point of view, you reach across the partisan divide."
Quote II
"Senator, you put some cows on your farm to avoid paying taxes. What problems me about that is that you tell everybody else not to do it but it's okay for you — $43,000 that could have gone for teachers." "There have been cows on that property for 60 years, since 1952, when I was a little boy, raising my 4-H Club project. And they still are" on the land.
Quote III
"I'm not sure which Florida you're talking about. There are people who are losing their homes, they're still losing their homes, senator. This economy is not one that is working." "He rails against the stimulus bill. He didn't tell you that he wrote a letter to the Department of Transportation in order to get $29 million in stimulus in his congressional district ."
Best moment
Painting Nelson as a creature of an unproductive Senate. The public is tired of gridlock and Mack tried to harness that by saying Democrats and Nelson, who served on the budget committee, had not passed a spending plan. His zinger about Mack's oft-repeated attack that Nelson was looking out for President Barack Obama, not Floridians. "Is that the only line that you have memorized?" Nelson said, and the audience burst into laughter.
Biggest misstep
On question about preserving popular provisions of health care law, he mostly slammed the law. It's a delicate issue in Florida and Mack missed an opportunity to appeal to broader electorate. Often gave long answers in contrast to Mack's punchier responses and seemed too eager to revisit the cow flap, going back at it during a question about immigration.
Rating the performance
Mack was aggressive and confident without seeming too strident. For someone critics dismiss as a lightweight, he performed well. But he also came across as heavily scripted and did a lot of Obama bashing rather than defining his own agenda. More than once he distorted Nelson's record. Nelson has been in political office for 40 years and his experience showed. Still, he did not emerge a clear victor. Nelson defended his record and hit back effectively at times, particularly on Mack missing votes to campaign. "Why don't you explain how you don't show up to work."

Breaking down Florida's U.S. Senate debate 10/17/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 11:56am]
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