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Scott and Crist Make Blowing Air a Metaphor of Their Campaign in 2nd Tempestuous Debate

| October 16, 2014

Let the fan puns begin.

Let the fan puns begin.

After tens of millions of dollars worth of television commercials and the slinging of massive amounts of mud, could the Florida gubernatorial election come down to an electric fan?

In the latest strange chapter in the always-fascinating politics of Florida, Gov. Rick Scott skipped the first few minutes of a televised debate Wednesday with his Democratic challenger, former Gov. Charlie Crist, because of the presence of an electric fan at Crist’s feet.

Actually, debate organizers were unsure at first whether either of the candidates would be on stage, though Crist strode out as moderator Eliott Rodriguez tried to explain the situation to the audience.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now,” Rodriguez said.

Scott eventually came out as well, but the incident brought a whole new meaning to the “spin room,” where surrogates for the two candidates gathered and tried to make sense of a nonsensical turn of events.

The Crist camp’s description of events: They had learned that after an event last week featuring CNN anchor Candy Crowley, the stage at the remodeled venue, Bailey Hall at Broward College, was described as uncomfortably warm. Debate organizers promised to fix the problem — with fans if necessary.

“They said they were going to fix it,” said former state Sen. Dan Gelber, who signed the debate agreement on Crist’s behalf. “And they said … if they don’t, they’ll have something available.”

The Crist campaign quickly produced the copy of the rules they signed, where Gelber had written in “with understanding that the debate hosts will address any temperature issues with a fan if necessary.”

But Scott’s supporters countered that the fan violated the rules of the debate, and Rodriguez said in the opening moments of the debate that a copy of the rules showed to him by the incumbent’s campaign indicated the fan shouldn’t be on the stage.

In fact, Scott’s camp said, it was Crist who threatened to pull the plug on the event if the fan was not plugged in.

“When I got here today for this debate, I was told that Charlie Crist was going to cancel the debate, because unless there was a fan on that stage, he would not come out,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “So I think that Governor Scott was waiting to see if Charlie would actually pull that off or not.”

Scott and others said he didn’t immediately take the stage at the beginning of the debate because he wanted to make sure Crist did.

Crist’s nearly ubiquitous fan was already famous, memorialized by a Twitter account and obsessed over by MSNBC host Chris Matthews. Rubio said that “a similar incident” happened in a 2010 Senate debate between himself, former Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meek and Crist, then running as an independent, when Meek complained about the fan.

Both campaigns tried to blow off the issue Wednesday night, but only after scoring a few political points from it.

“What looked bad was this bizarre incident tonight where Charlie Crist insisted on ignoring the rules of a debate, just like he’s ignored the rules time and again when it comes to telling the truth about what he stands for on issue after issue,” Rubio said.

“Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates — none of that will cover up how sad his record as governor was compared to the success of Rick Scott,” Scott campaign manager Melissa Sellers said in a statement issued after the debate, an apparent effort at damage control. “Crist should buy a fan for the 832,000 Floridians who lost their jobs while he was governor.”

Crist’s campaign said Scott was afraid to address issues.

“I think it’s outrageous that he’s worried about that when he’s not worried about a million Floridians without health insurance, he’s not worried about teachers, he’s not worried about my kid who goes to a public school,” said Annette Taddeo, Crist’s running mate. “That’s what he should be worried about, not about a fan.”

Both candidates addressed the fan flap near the end of the debate, with Crist defending having his cooling system on hand.

“Is there anything wrong with being comfortable?” Crist said. “I don’t think there is.”

Once the debate did begin, the candidates continued the squabbling that started in television commercials and carried through a debate last week at Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo. (Politifact fact-checked the debate here.)

“That’s not true,” Scott said at one point during a discussion of insurance rates.

“Oh, it’s true,” Crist shot back.

Crist once again brought up a years-old deposition in a civil case where Scott invoked his right not to incriminate himself 75 times.

“That is not the kind of leadership that Florida deserves,” Crist said.

In response to a question about gay marriage, Scott noted Crist’s evolving position on the issue — part of a narrative seeking to portray Crist as a habitual flip-flopper.

“We don’t actually know what Charlie believes on this issue, because he’s taken every side of this issue,” Scott, a believer in what he calls “traditional marriage,” said.

But most of the talk on social media and at the debate venue concerned the fan — and whether or not it will make any difference.

“It’s funny, but in terms of pushing people, I doubt it,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. “But it may make them watch the next one.”

–Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida

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15 Responses for “Scott and Crist Make Blowing Air a Metaphor of Their Campaign in 2nd Tempestuous Debate”

  1. confidential says:

    Fan or no fan Crist has my vote.
    What a shameful excuse for the incumbent’s intention to boycott the debate!
    Also after bilking Medicare in the past while heading the Columbia HCA in TX, now he refuses the Medicaid federal funds for Floridians!!

  2. GY says:

    Turn off those 10 million dollar annoying TV commercials and fund more debates.

  3. confidential says:

    This is what now we have since Scott took over:
    Pollution for us all to see in our surrounding waters all derelict vessels sinking in owners docks and spilling fuel in our manatee and other wildlife frequented surrounding waters and what we get when we call the FL DEP and Wildlife Management Hot Line response, “that is very slow due to the latest budget cuts” . Oh yeah Scott cut the budget for the services we pay on our taxes to give hand outs to corporations…for no jobs created. That is the typical Conservative de ja vu.

    • Cypress Grand says:

      Scott’s first year in office in Florida, he slashed the state budget by $4 billion, cut corporate taxes and vetoed $615 million worth of spending for “homeless veterans”, meals for seniors, whooping-cough vaccines for low-income mothers, an independent living center for the developmentally disabled and cut the funding for “Public Radio.”

  4. Cypress Grand says:

    Governor Scott looked quite ridiculous when he does not know that an electric fan is an “electrical appliance” and not an “electronics device”; i.e., ear phones, iPads, iPhones, laptops.

  5. Seminole Pride says:

    Good move Mr. Scott. It had nothing to do with the fan, even though he used that excuse. He was making Mr. Crisp sweat and wait a while before he showed up. This was a psychological task that is used all the time in a boxing match, or a matchplay event in golf, to get your opponent annoyed and irritated. Doesn’t anybody know gamesmanship when they see it.

  6. Yellowstone says:

    His ‘gamesmanship’ lost him seven minutes of an expensive opportunity. An opportunity of which Charlie took great advantage. He spoke his message with interference loud and clear!

    Charlie, like all good politicians, knows how to play that game . . .

  7. m&m says:

    Crist knows how to cheat to wln..

  8. Joe says:

    They both suck, we are in trouble no matter who wins, Charlie the flip-flopper couldn’t make it in the real world so now back to Florida, at least under Scott there is finally a surplus and unemployment numbers are moving in the right direction.

  9. Retired FF says:

    The fan issue is ridiculous, but lets face it neither of these so called politicians are upstanding. Scott has his issues, but Crist can’t decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He has been a Republican governor, an Independent candidate and now he thinks he will be a Democrat for awhile. Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t vote for that guy if he was the only candidate!

  10. Sherry Epley says:

    In my thinking, the Republican party has become much more conservative with the terrible influence of the Tea Party in the past few years. Charlie Crist has remained a “moderate” and so the current “uncaring/obstructionist” Republican party moved much too far away from Mr. Crist’s fundamental “middle of the road” principles. Charlie Crist has stayed constant in his beliefs . . . it has been the Republican Party that has shifted much too far to the “fringe element” right.

    Rick Scott is a beast that has cut education and all social programs to the bone, while giving tax breaks to the wealthy. His jobs programs has failed to create anything except lower average wages. He is the worst kind of human being. . . one who only represents those that live off of GREED and the creation of FEAR! He cares nothing for the average, hard working citizen and has done nothing to build the middle class.

    RICK SCOTT needs to go! Let’s get out the vote and CHANGE FLORIDA!

  11. barbie says:

    I originally thought it was just Rick Scott, trying to weasel out of the debate, but I’ve been reading some interesting theorizing. and I really like this one: think this whole thing was a setup by Rick Scott, to try to pull a prank on Charlie Crist. Except…well, it backfired. To wit:

    (1) Charlie Crist’s use of fans for ALL public speaking appearances has always been well known in Florida political circles.

    (2) Rick Scott raised the issue prior to their previous debate on Spanish television (“Scott threatened to boycott last Friday’s Telemundo debate in Miramar if Crist got a five-inch portable fan in the Miramar studio. Gelber said the network’s debate producer, Maria Barrios, agreed to the request.”)

    (3) Rick Scott profited from a debate rules flap with Alex Sink in the 2010 governor race.

    (4) Rick Scott had inserted in his proposed debate rules a parenthetical to the conventional ban on electronic devices that also prohibited fans.(“No electronic devices (including fans.)”)

    (5) But Charlie Crist did not accept that restriction, reserving the right to use a fan.His staff worked that out with the debate team before showtime.

    The staff knew it. They must have, because *the fan was already on the podium*.

    (6) Despite this, Scott told the moderator that the rules prohibited fans.

    I think Scott’s ploy was set up at that point. He was going to depict Crist as a rulebreaker and a priss. But Crist foiled it in two ways. First, as the moderator said, “somehow there is a fan there.” Because there was a fan, Crist could comfortably walk out unannounced by the moderator and demonstrate he was ready to debate.

    Consider the surprise the moderator expresses when Crist just walks out. That moderator had not a clue what was going on.

    And once Crist stands out there, Scott’s ploy is ruined, Crist is ready to debate. Standing next to an empty podium for almost five minutes. The only thing to ask at that point was “Where is Rick Scott?”

    His staff is madly trying to spin this and losing, badly. This is what’s known as “karma”. Charlie Crist beat Rick Scott at his own dirty game. Charlie Crist almost busted out laughing, when he realized someone dumped a gift in his lap, but managed to compose himself long enough to say something about “are we really debating over a FAN?””

    OMG, what a hoot. You know what this tells me? It tells me Rick Scott isn’t prepared for much.

  12. Shelia Shoman says:

    Sorry Charlie, Florida needs a governor who is NOT a TRAITOR. And one who is NOT a person who changes his/her morals and values for a chance at GREED and POWER. Charlie, you are nothing more then a Al Sharpton in white skin.

  13. Sherry Epley says:

    If you haven’t seen it yet. . . google the video of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show take on this incident. . . hilarious! Unfortunately, although Rick Scott looks like a total “Buffoon” . . . he is actually more damaging to Florida than a complete idiot would be. VOTE RICK SCOTT OUT!

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