Although Charlie Crist didn't come into Tuesday night's gubernatorial debate with a sterling reputation for debating, he was positively Lincolnesque compared to Rick Scott in their final televised encounter, broadcast live nationally on CNN from Jacksonville. As we mentioned after the #FanGate debate last week, Scott is not a very good speaker, and frankly it hurts him in a live setting where communication skills are critical.
That said, it's difficult to say whether the debate moved any minds.
Governor Scott had an interesting strategy in this forum, which was to deflect criticism about how his own policies might be affecting the middle class by repeatedly attacking Crist as coming from a family of privilege, whereas he struggled growing up with a single mom.
"I grew up with families that struggled," Scott said. "I don't know my natural father. I lived in public housing. I have an adopted dad," Scott said. "I didn't grow up with money. You did. You grew up with plenty of money. Charlie, you lost more jobs than any state but one."
"You don't know me and you can't tell my story," Crist said. "But I know you are worth about $200 million today and God bless you for that wealth, but the way you got it was unsavory," referring to Scott's issues at his former healthcare company Columbia/HCA. In response, Scott criticized Crist for "losing" 832,000 jobs during his tenure as governor from 2007-2011. Crist then snapped right back and admonished Scott for not paying any personal fine after Columbia/HCA received a record $1.7 billion penalty for alleged Medicare fraud.
The debate featured some questions from the public via Facebook. Here Crist is asked about his various flip-flops.
On the subject of the death penalty, Crist put Scott on the defensive when he mentioned that Attorney General Pam Bondi had postponed a scheduled execution of death row inmate Marshall Lee Gore In September 2013 to attend a political fundraiser, an embarrassing incident that Bondi ultimately apologized for. But Crist was relentless, and accused Scott of signing off on that delay. Scott stumbled in responding, ultimately repeating that Bondi had apologized.
Then Scott turned the tables on Crist and said that Crist was too eager to restore the voting rights of ex-felons.
"Here is Charlie's plan: If you get out of jail, you get to vote. Stalk, you get to vote. You have intentional permanent disfigurement of a child and you walk out of jail and you get to vote," Scott said.
Crist called Scott a liar, and said he wants automatic restoration for non-violent offenders.
Undoubtedly Crist's least adroit moment during the forum was when asked about whether raising the minimum wage was "worth it" if a small business owner has to lay off 17 employees.
Crist's answer: "I think it is worth it because people deserve it."
Rick Scott responded: "That one employee, Charlie doesn't care."
Nationally Republicans are trying to use President Obama's unpopularity as an albatross against their Democratic opponents, and now Scott is employing those tactics as well. He has a new ad up that mentions the Crist-Obama association, and when asked about immigration reform, Scott poured blame on the president. Crist responded that there are three branches of government, and said the House of Representatives has failed to act upon the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill.
In other news....
Hillsborough County officials say they want to have a complete plan for a transit tax referendum ready by next March.
St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman wants to start paying a minimum wage of $12.50 an hour to city employees. CL's Ashley Whitney has that story.