Well – very interesting – all I can say is that I am glad Chris Matthews made it a better debate that the sterile debates I have seen in the past. His presence and persistence in getting answers form the candidates (Attorney General Charlie Crist and Congressman Jim Davis), handling the surprise appearance of Reform Party candidate Mark Linn, and managing the meandering of the political rhetoric was a breath of fresh air. A quick run down of some of the better reporting:
- Mark Hollis gives a terrific run-thru of the debate for the Sun-Sentinel (and thanks for the video feed!)
- Laura Fiorilli from TBO has a terrific spin on the debate – including a much meater way of looking at what was said.
- Adam Smith of the St. Pete Times also talks about the impact the debate had on Crist.
As I have in the past, I will give a blow by blow on each of the issues questioned by Matthews to the candidates. In truth, this is as best as I could glean from watching the debate. IMHO, I think Matthews relished clamming on the pols for their squishy answers, and in particular seemed to get Crist when he could.
- Issue: Iraq War – was it worth it? Are we safer?
TOSSUP – Davis voted for war (based on faulty intelligence) and has been fighting to get it to a positive resolution and voting for body armor. Crist believes we are safer – took the war to them, not on our shores. Linn has always been against the war. Wonders where the government official’s kids are in this war – they are not fighting in this war.
- Issue: Gay Rights – NJ passes law, what is your opinion?
TOSSUP – Crist says marriage is a sacred institution, supports civil unions. When pressed for a specific definition to clarify the differences between marriage and civil unions, goes into political rhetoric. Linn supporters gay adoption, civil unions but not gay marriages because the country is not ready for it. Davis believes marriage is a religious sacrament, couples in civil unions should have the same rights, would support gay adoption and supports judges being able to decide if gay adoption should occur. When asked, Crist says he does not support gay adoption, traditional family is the best way to raise a child.
- Question: Clean campaign, so are you a Libertarian Conservative (small govt, low taxes) or Values Conservative (abortion rulings, strictures)?
CRIST – Crist says he is a common sense conservative – which seems to be like libertarian. Davis asked if he is a liberal (90% Democratic Action rating) – he goes into platform issues on FCAT and is asked again, where he then replies he can not be placed into a simple label. Linn (later) answers saying he is a (my interpretation) a libertarian conservative.
- Diversion: property tax issue
TOSSUP – Davis will “find a way” to roll back 5% of the $20B in tax giveaways to “special interests”. Crist points out that this is removing tax breaks and increasing “your” taxes (“backs of seniors”) and Davis hopes that the legislature will return the money to you. Matthews asks for a clear itemizing of the homestead exemption numbers – Crist can not make simple numbers, Davis seems unable to (outside of 5% of the $20B set of tax giveaways). Davis points out that Crist’s idea will be on the backs of first time home owners, renters and small businesses. Linn points out that doubling the homestead exemption will bankrupt many small towns in Florida for the loss of revenue to their local budgets.
- Diversion: did you take donations from companies/lobbyists for this campaign?
DAVIS – Crist: yes (from insurance companies) but does not know the exact numbers. Davis knows the numbers (and tells us later that it was $2M), and is asked if he takes money from the teachers lobby. He answers yes, but “teachers don’t have much money”.
- Schivo Case – are you happy the way it was handled in the State Legislature/Congress?
DAVIS – Crist says he disagreed with Gov. Bush, which is why he stayed out of it. Asked if he disagreed with it – he says he did. Davis responds that “he did not” and points out how he fought in Congress and did to stay out, but stood up. Linn was appalled in the government’s action on the case and believes in a strict separation of church and state.
- Mark Foley case: did you see this coming? Any strange signals?
DAVIS – Crist says he saw nothing – and the office of AG offered to help in the investigation. Davis says that it was a failure of leadership – that the Republicans were more concerned over party issues than the issues of the children – and then drifts into the insurance issue. Linn says that people are tired of the Republican and the Democratic parties.
- Issue: Election 2000 – do you think the matter was handled well?
DAVIS – Matthews is trying to get at the issue of paper trails and if the process is broken. Crist says US Supreme Court did what was right and that the process is not broken. Davis launches against this – no paper trail, no automatic restoration and then uses the dreaded H word (Harris).
- Segway: paper trail – are you advocating a receipt with your vote on it?
TOSSUP – Davis does not answer well, Crist is against it for fear people would be paid for their vote, and Linn is for paper trail, but does not answer the receipt question. [Ed Note: I think what should happen is a paper transcript with encoded ID and votes hashed should be recorded on paper and then sent to a location. This is what we do in databases as a matter of course.]
- Question: Grade Governor Bush
TOSSUP – Davis gives him an overall grade of C, but for education a D- and port security and A. Crist gives him a strong A and believes in education, Bush has been strong. Linn gives him an overall C, but upgrades him to a B for a smile and the pen (Bush just signed to get him into the debate).
- Question: Grade President Bush
DAVIS – Crist gives GWB an overall grade of B, especially high grades for being principled. Commends the Bush family for its contribution to the country. Davis gives GWB an overall grade of an F since he broke his promise not to drill off the coast of FL (and Crist did not join the fight) and that GWB wanted to privatize social security. Uses his line “…fixing to send a message…” Linn gives GWB an overall grade of an F. Then comments on Crist’s answer by bringing up $25K a plate dinners and the $5M given to his campaign by developers.
- Question: does Florida have a big crime problem?
DAVIS – Crist says we are at a 35 year low – and reels off a number of his efforts. Davis comments that violent crime is up 30% in the past six months (specifically murder). Davis wants to get more cops, gear, etcera to enforce the current laws on the books. Matthews then grills Crist on his statement – trying to get clarity on the difference between violent crime and murder – and Crist admits murder is up, but violent crime is down. Matthews gives him a scathing retort sounding like DC mayor Marion Barry for the “technicality” issue – most people think murder is a violent crime. Linn wants more cops. Davis finalizes with “focus on your job, not on technicalities”
- Issue: Homeowners Insurance – how can you help the common person?
DAVIS – Crist returns to his talking points (“stop the cherry picking”, “stop the shell game”, Davis attendence record). Davis slams with his points (“up to 40% reduction”, “eliminate Citizens”, “stand up to insurance lobby”) and then comments on Crist’s “cherry picking” plan as Gov. Bush saying it would not work. Linn says insure homes worth $500K and below. Florida does not belong in the insurance business.
- Digression: why did you run for Congressman when you knew you were going to run for Governor? (to Davis)
Davis answers with his point “I do not sit down, I stand up” line. And then hammers that “Charlie” got $2M from the insurance companies for his campaign.
I would traditionally end with their closings, but this is the same old stuff in the closing statements (with the exception of the questions posed by Linn: “Are you truly happy and satisfied with current system and do you believe the current system needs new direction and fresh ideas?”). The best line of the night, as commented on by others, was Linn’s “All I found was an empty suit” when he looked in Tallahassee for Crist.
My take – Davis did well for his public speaking skill set. He must have worked on his attack – and kept “Charlie” down with the use of the diminutive over and over again. For some reason, when he spoke, “Charlie” sounded like an insult instead of his name. Linn was sort of the Al Sharpton of this debate – coming up with lines, and I wish he had been better prepared. And Crist – well, not very interesting – very much like the politician he seems. All I can say is I think Davis did well, but I am still fearful of having another Davis as my governor – I hope he is better than Gray. But I will say – great job Jim, go out and win this election!