The third debate between Charlie Crist and Tom Gallagher looked alot like the second debate. Except this time, Crist parried Gallagher’s attacks with pops of his own. If the debate were a fight, this would go to the cards – where it would be called a draw.
Why? Gallagher was able to continue drawing the distinction between he and Crist on those issues that are often important to the socially conservative Republican base. Crist was able to attack Gallagher on trust and taxes, issues important to the more libertarian Reagan Republicans. The question will be, what kind of voter base will turn out on September 5th?
Like the other debates, there were a series of questions from a panel. While these questions were slightly better than the first debate, they clearly were not as good as the second GOP debate. Both Crist and Gallagher had similar answers on questions relating to the FCAT, death penalty, a state income tax, protecting Lake Okeechobee, and allowing Southwest Florida residents to have their voice heard on the insurance reform debate (the Task Force is not meeting in SW Florida).
Here is a quick summary of other issues raised by the panelists, taken out of order:
Continuing Jeb’s Legacy and GOP Unity
Both candidates want to continue Jeb’s legacy, but along different issues. Gallagher mentioned the social issues he has hammered Crist on for several weeks (abortion andcivil unions) and talked about how Crist opposed Jeb on the class size amendment. Crist mentioned that he has always supported Jeb, while pointing out that Gallagher ran against Jeb in 1994, calling Bush too conservative.
Top 3 Priorities
Gallagher’s priorities are resolving the insurance crisis, continuing education reforms by improving high school graduation rate and reforming the high school curriculum, and to organize the state so it operates more efficiently. Crist’s priorities are focusing on education, keeping Florida safe and secure, and holding the line on taxes and spending. On their top priorities, Gallagher would work to cut premiums 20% during his first 100 days, while Crist would work to give pay raises to teachers.
Closing Achievement Gap
To improve the achievement of minorities, Crist would focus on reading while Gallagher would give principals greater autonomy to focus on programs that work. Both candidates would continue programs that have already been successful.
Save our Homes
Both reiterated their positions. Gallagher wants to make the cap portable while limiting local government spending. Crist wants to allow portability statewide and double the homestead exemption.
The real fireworks came out when the candidates were allowed to ask each other questions. Unlike the last debate, the candidates did not have the chance to rebut the other’s answers. However, Gallagher avoided answering Crist entirely and chose instead to rebut Crist’s answers to the questions put to him.
Crist’s questions to Gallagher:
• Quoted as being conservative in the 80’s, moderate when you last ran for governor, how can the voters trust your recent conversion?
• How can you compare Jeb to Fidel Castro?
• Can you explain why you day traded $13 million worth of stock, including stocks you regulated, from your government office?
• How can you solve the insurance crisis when your last attempt turned out so bad?
Gallagher’s questions to Crist.
• If Roe v Wade is overturned, would you sign a bill to ban abortions? Yes or No?
• How will you pay for the class size amendment and your spending plan?
• Should you support the [U.S.] Senate [immigration] bill without securing our borders first?
• What is the difference between a civil union and same sex marriage?
Here are Crist’s positions on these issues, since Gallagher failed to even attempt to answer any of Crist’s questions:
Crist again sidestepped the question, instead declaring himself to be pro-life. Crist wants to focus on creating a culture of life and promoting abortion. Gallagher’s rebuttal was that Crist’s answers sound pro-choice.
Crist stated he believes marriage is between one and one woman, and has defended that position nine times in court. Crist also said that Gallagher was raising these issues instead of property insurance, property taxes, or other issues also important to the voters.
Crist again said that he believes the people have spoken. He also attacked Gallagher for failing to trust the voters. He did make an attempt to answer how it will be paid for, but ran out of time.
Gallagher dismissed questions about daytrading and ethics as attacks from Crist because the polls are slipping.
In all, I would say that Cirst was more deft at fending off Gallagher’s attacks tonight. But Gallagher was a little to strong on the attack. Instead of picking the right time for solid punches, it appeared that Gallagher was trying to wail away at Crist, coming off as more desperate than distinguished.
That being said, this is a debate for the Republican nomination. The conventional wisdom is that candidates need to be more conservative to win the nomination, and Gallagher was able to draw greater distinction than Crist on issues traditionally important to the conservative base. Of course, the State of Sunshine is not convinced that these issues will drive turnout this year.
So it appears that both Crist and Gallagher were 1-1-1 in the debates. Now it’s time to wait for September 5th.