Monday, October 30, 2006


Tuesday evening's gubernatorial debate was a bit surprising with the addition of Reform Party candidate Max Linn, who won a decision from a federal judge to participate only 20 minutes before airtime.

The millionaire retired financial planner sued host television station WFLA-8 and owner Media General Communications to become part of the event. While WFLA/Media General's requirment stated that a candidate had to meet a seven percent threshold of support in an independent poll (the station uses Mason Dixon Polling & Research, whose last poll showed Linn with one percent), Linn presented as evidence a survey which he paid National Business Communications, Inc. to conduct; it showed he had nearly nine percent support. That was enough for Judge James Whittemore.

Overall, moderator Chris Matthews did a better job than Ray Suarez last week. While I believe that some of the questions didn't really fit a state gubenatorial debate --- for instance, those about Iraq and the Terri Schiavo case --- Matthews pressed the participants hard on several occasions to answer the questions or expand on their answers. My only wish would have been that the Hardball host had done more research on Florida issues and addressed those more.

I thought Davis was much more forceful tonight than last week. However, he really botched up the paper trail question when Matthews pressed him on it. Anyone would be able to correctly answer that a proper receipt would not include a printout of who a voter cast his/her ballot for, as that could potentially violate the idea of a secret ballot. The idea of a paper trail is to 1) verify that the number of ballots that were counted matched the number noted by the computer, and 2) provide for a recount by hand if necessary...which now is not allowed by Florida law.

Crist simply didn't seem as comfortable, now finding out about Linn's inclusion until five minutes before airtime. On several occasions it seemed that the attorney general was on the wrong side of a two-on-one attack, and on several occasions it seemed that he was trying to revert back to the talking points that were the downside of last week's debate. Thankfully, the moderator's pressing style kept that more to a minimum last night.

Linn knew he had to make himself known one way or the other, and he did so on a couple of occasions by directly calling on both men to answer the questions (although the rules of the debate prohibited the candidates from directly addressing each other), and a couple of other times challenged them and their answers. Too little, too late.

If I had to pick a winner tonight, it would have to be Davis.


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