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  1. Florida Politics

By the numbers, Congressional District 13 debate is all about talking points

The three candidates vying to win the Congressional District 13 seat, from left, Democrat Alex Sink, Libertarian Lucas Overby and Republican David Jolly, begin their debate at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Tuesday.
The three candidates vying to win the Congressional District 13 seat, from left, Democrat Alex Sink, Libertarian Lucas Overby and Republican David Jolly, begin their debate at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater on Tuesday.
Published Feb. 27, 2014

Here's how the debate works:

The moderator spends untold hours researching relevant topics. Audience members offer a bunch of potential questions on note cards. Debate organizers carve out a 90-minute window for 16 or so topics to be discussed.

And then …

Candidates give three answers. Maybe four on a good day.

Now it's possible I'm exaggerating, but not in an outlandish way.

You see, candidates tend to stick to a handful of talking points no matter what is being asked. This is called staying on point. It may also be called avoiding the question.

With that in mind, I've compiled a list of numbers to sum up the highlights of Tuesday's congressional debate involving David Jolly, Lucas Overby and Alex Sink.

9 Number of times Jolly mentioned Bill Young by name.

You may not be aware that Jolly worked alongside Mr. Young in Congress, and he considered Mr. Young a mentor, and this makes him the logical successor to Mr. Young, and he has been endorsed by Mr. Young's widow and he has been to Mr. Young's house and, in closing, he would like to thank Mr. Young.

Suggestion for Friday's debate on WEDU's Florida This Week: Everyone drinks a shot each time Jolly says the words "Mister" and "Young" in any combination.

17 Words used by Sink when asked to give a one-word answer to the most-needed leadership quality for a member of Congress.

This would be an example of a candidate trying to shoehorn a rehearsed talking point into an unrelated question. The point Sink was trying to make had to do with bipartisanship, which brings us to …

6 Number of times Sink talked about being moderate and working with Republicans.

This is one of the focal points of Sink's campaign. If you buy her line of thinking, she is the centrist candidate in a centrist district and Jolly is a right-wing fanatic.

3 Number of times Jolly said, "This is personal to me."

You can almost see the PR experts giving each other high-fives for coming up with this one. It's the passive-aggressive version of saying Sink is an outsider. "This is personal to me" was usually followed by "This is my home, this is my community."

Clint Eastwood could not have delivered the line better.

4 Spontaneous ovations for Overby, which was more than either Sink or Jolly.

The Libertarian candidate got laughs for a couple of self-deprecating comments, but also got heartfelt applause for some plain-spoken, populist positions.

1 Memorable gaffe by any candidate.

In trying to cater to the chamber of commerce crowd, Sink clumsily linked low-paying jobs and immigrants. A slick debater, she ain't.

7 Number of times Jolly said "Obamacare."

This is an interesting number considering the Affordable Care Act was not among the more than a dozen topics covered during the debate.

0 Knockout punches.

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