1. Florida Politics

Romano: Jolly more polished in debate, but he gives Sink ammunition

From left, Republican David Jolly, Libertarian Lucas Overby, and Democrat Alex Sink debate Monday evening at the St. Petersburg College campus in Seminole.
From left, Republican David Jolly, Libertarian Lucas Overby, and Democrat Alex Sink debate Monday evening at the St. Petersburg College campus in Seminole.
Published Feb. 4, 2014

Of the two major party candidates onstage at Monday night's congressional debate, it seemed to me that David Jolly was sharper. More confident and concise.

In short, he did the better job of articulating his world view.

But was that a good thing?

For a guy who is trying to portray Alex Sink as an interloper, Jolly doesn't seem to be real cozy with a lot of his Pinellas County neighbors.

This is a county of nuance. A county with more centrists than radicals. A county that will lean Republican on one day, and then tilt Democrat on the next.

Yet Jolly seemed to be making a Fox News audition tape.

This wasn't just a Republican candidate trying to portray Sink as an out-of-touch liberal. This was a candidate taking a hard right at almost every fork in the road.

Obamacare? Repeal it.

Common Core? Dump it.

How to handle Syria? Attack it.

Immigration reform? Forget it.

Roe vs. Wade? Overturn it.

If nothing else, Jolly solidified his standing with the tea party. His fate with the rest of the world is a little harder to gauge.

It's not that Jolly comes off shrill or unprepared. The guy clearly knows his stuff, and a lot of his arguments make terrific sound bites.

But there are also gaps he conveniently ignores.

While he wants to abolish Obamacare, he says we should figure out another way to provide for pre-existing conditions. The only problem is congressional leaders didn't give a hoot about pre-existing conditions for decades, so why trust them now?

On the topic of gun control, he says earnestly that we must keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Sounds good, but how is that accomplished?

This is not to say that Sink didn't have issues of her own. If she was aiming for folksy, her answers tended to sound rambling.

When she tried to call out Jolly for a lightning round answer on minimum wage being tied to an economic index, his answer was far more detailed and made a lot more sense than I think she would have liked.

And when given the opportunity to ask Jolly a direct question, she inexplicably asked Lucas Overby to explain the Libertarian Party.

The best moment for Sink was when she finally got away from rehearsed-sounding responses to say she would demand answers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on how they came up with ridiculously priced premiums for flood insurance policies in Pinellas.

In the end, Sink and Jolly were probably debating for only a fraction of the televised audience. Jolly will get the hard-core Republican vote and Sink will get most of the Democrats. This election, like every other around here, will be decided by independents and moderates.

If those viewers were judging by style points, then it was probably a very good night for Jolly.

But he also gave Sink a trunkload of ammunition to carry back on the campaign trail. Forget the ads about Jolly being a lobbyist. At this point, his time in Washington, D.C., actually makes him sound more prepared.

Instead, it would be stunning if Sink doesn't begin talking about issues such as abortion and immigration reform.

Sink undoubtedly leans left, but Jolly tilts a heck of a lot more to the right.

Up next:Sunshine

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