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Florida Gubernatorial Politics: Debates and Surrogates

Florida elections
Posted at 10:56 AM, Oct 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-06 09:35:50-04

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The general election is just four weeks away, but with absentee ballots now out across the state voting has commenced. That makes each of the upcoming debates, which begin on Friday, Oct. 10, even more important because they could very well result in voters making instantaneous judgments with ballots in front of them.

While polls fluctuate on the race, putting Scott and then Crist up, when the margin of error is taken into account, the race is virtually tied. That, along with other factors, makes the upcoming debates even more important for both candidates. Voters will watch closely -- everything from how they look, to the color of their suit and tie, to if they appear uncomfortable or are sweating is scrutinized. The substantive aspects of their answers, how they approach the other candidate, if they come into the debates in “attack” mode or are defensive can all play a role in perception. Press will look to see if they really answer a question, try to side-step and issue or make some substantive slip up. You may remember the last presidential election when President Obama was accused of “not showing up” for the first debate. While he eventually overcame it, it brought down the campaign until the next debate rolled around. Each candidate will spend hours with advisors and mock opponents, preparing for each debate format.

The independent candidate, Adrian Wylie has not yet reached the polling threshold for participation set by debate organizers. He has said he has hired a first amendment attorney to pursue a claim that would allow him a place on the stages. The lawyer reportedly retained, Luke Lirot, has a history in this area, successfully pulling the independent candidate to the podium in 2006 when Charlie Crist was running as a republican.

In addition to the debates, each candidate is using these last few days to bring marquee political names into the state to help drive turnout. With turnout being historically low in mid-terms, both candidates are hoping that these nationally known figures will not only help them raise dollars but will inspire the party faithful to go to the polls, or fill out their absentee ballots and get them in the mail. For Governor Scott, the state has seen potential 2016 presidential candidate Chris Christie, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Florida home sons Marc Rubio and Jeb Bush. Charlie Crist has gone to the top of the democratic surrogate pool by having both former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State, and potential 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton in south Florida. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to be in Florida for Crist on October 13th.

The final stages of the race… is on!