Davis-Crist-Linn and Matthews debate in Tampa by Mitch E. Perry


The last minute inclusion of Reform Party candidate Max Linn and the sometimes erratic moderating style of cable news star Chris Matthews led to a wild gubernatorial debate televised nationally from Tampa last night. Linn persuaded U.S. District Judge James Whittemore that he had met the criteria set out by the sponsor of the debate WFLA Television, just 20 minutes before the debate began, forcing organizers to let him participate. Linn was an equal opportunity basher, but saved most of his wrath for Charlie Crist.

Moderator Chris Matthews began the debate by asking a question about the biggest issue in the world – Iraq, although it certainly isn’t in the Governor race.

Linn responded this way (roll tape#1 o.q. “as soon as possible�)

Matthews then kept the focus on national issues that were of concern to him and perhaps the nation wide television audience, but are of dubious import in Florida. Such as the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling last week on same sex marriage.

Originally, front-runner Charlie Crist had objected to original format proposed for the debate, which would have Hardball host Chris Matthews and Crist and Davis all sitting around a table. That format was changed to a more formal setting, but the rat-a-tat style that Matthews is known for was not. And Crist did not do well in it. (roll tape#2 o.q.�clear in our state�)

Matthews then asked about ideology, questioning what type of conservative Crist is, and what kind of liberal Davis was. Davis naturally sidestepped the label (roll tape#3 o.q.�my values�) After seguing into a critique on the FCAT, Matthews refused to allow him to sidestep the question (roll tape#4 o.q.�neither does out state�)

During the discussion on how to contend with Property taxes, Matthews asked how much money Charlie Crist has received from the Insurance industry. The debate grew raucous from there (roll tape#5 o.q.�I really don’t know how much�)

Although Jim Davis legislative record in Congress is spotty, there is no doubt that challenging Tom DeLay, Bill Frist and President Bush in the spring of 2005 on the Terri Schiavo issue was one of his finest moments. Davis has boasted about his Standing Up to those Republicans throughout his campaign, so when Charlie Crist said last night that he and Davis were on the same page regarding the Schiavo case, Davis attacked him hard (roll tape#6 o.q.�that I’ll provide as Governor�)

One of the most interesting – of a thoroughly interesting debate came on the issue of electronic voting machines. The exchange occurred after Chris Matthews led it off by asking for the candidates thoughts on the 2000 Presidential recount…Crist sounded annoyed that it was a look back to what happened 6 years ago (roll tape# 7 o.q.�I believe that they can�)

Jim Davis then took the question and pivoted towards advocating for a paper trail for the electronic voting machines, a major concern among Democrats and voting activists.(roll tape#8 o.q.�the election system�)

That led Crist then to declare for the first time publicly in this campaign – that he too, is for a paper trail for electronic voting machines, used in 15 of Florida’s 67 counties (roll tape#8 o.q.�a fine thing to have�)

That led to Davis’ response (roll tape# 9 o.q.�a paper trail�)

The issue turned to Crime. Jim Davis echoed Crist’s claims that under this watch as Attorney General, crime is down in Florida. But he said that murders were up, leading to another entertaining exchange (roll tape#10 o.q.�from a career politician�)

In fact, according to the Associated Press, Local police agencies reported 518 killings in Florida through the end of June, up 27 percent from the 408 murders the state saw in the first six months of 2005.

Perhaps the best line of the night went to Reform Party candidate Max Linn, in evaluating the Democratic and Republican candidates for Governor, respectively (roll tape#11 o.q.�and all we found was an empty suit�)

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