Florida's three top candidates for U.S. Senate got another chance to state their case in front of a national audience in a televised debate hosted by CNN on the campus of the University of South Florida at Tampa on Sunday.
Republican Marco Rubio, Democrat Kendrick Meek and Gov. Charlie Crist, an independent, all got some quality face time while trying to convince Florida voters they were the man to send to Washington. With midterm elections in just over a week, the debate may have solidified a possible win for at least one candidate.
In polls taken thus far of likely Florida voters, Rubio is well in front of second-place Crist and Meek comes in a distant third. That fact was readily apparent in the debate as both trailing candidates seem to team up against Rubio.
Instead of falling for any of these tactics, Rubio remained steadfast in the debate making it about what can be done to improve the economy. He slammed a White House proposal to drop Bush-era tax cuts on the wealthy.
"It's a bad time to raise taxes on anybody. The only way to improve the economy is by growing the economy and fiscal restraint, and you have to do both," said Rubio.
Crist attempted to claim he is a "fiscal conservative and social moderate" by telling female voters Rubio wants to "overturn Roe v. Wade. He's against stem cell research. These are extreme views that I'm not comfortable with." Crist is certainly trying to sound like a true independent in affirming his support on abortion rights as he was defeated by Tea Party favorite Mark Rubio in Florida's primary election.
Kendrick Meek attempted to derail Rubio by saying his economic ideas are "not solutions, but ideology." Meek supports rescinding tax cuts on families with earnings exceeding $250,000 per year.
Florida voter reaction
The Yahoo! News Ask America van was in Florida earlier this month and questioned voters as to what they thought of the candidates. Rubio has a strong block of support from Cuban-American voters while many moderates feel like Crist really will be someone who can work with both parties to get things done in Congress.
Republican voters in Florida are torn between Tea Party favorite Rubio and mainstream Republican Crist who quit his party in April to run as an Independent. Meek has yet to show he can take advantage of a split Republican vote to take the lead in the polls.
All three men understood their place among Florida's voters. Rubio acted as if he was out in front in the polls and firmly stood his ground while not bowing to any of the tactics taken by Crist or Meek. Crist worked hard to sound like a go-between Independent in hopes of winning over swing voters to ideally claim the race from Rubio. Meek was left to attack the frontrunner Rubio on ideology to try to garner more support.
Floridians have plenty to vote on Nov. 2. They have three choices for the U.S. Senate and all three men have dug in their heels with regards to their platforms and campaign positions.
Florida finds itself in the unique position as being the first state where a Tea Party-backed candidate will most likely win a Congressional seat. Rubio has proven himself to remain substantially ahead in the polls with little more than a week left to go.