They’re already calling it #Fangate on Twitter…a seven-minute span of time that might have just cost Florida’s Tealord Rick Scott his heated race with Once-and-Future-Governor Charlie Crist.
In tonight’s debate at Broward University, the second debate between the two governors, Charlie Crist found himself standing alone onstage for the first half-dozen minutes. Rick Scott, according to the moderator was “in the building,” but refused to debate with Crist because of an “illegal electronic device” on the stage.
That device was the small, plastic, upward-pointed fan that accompanies Crist to most of these events, and sits quietly at his feet behind the podium. Crist, having grown up in Florida (unlike Rick Scott) clearly appreciates the value of circulating air. But that was a decided no-no for Scott, who demanded the fan be removed.
You have to wonder if Scott was attempting to re-enact the famous televised Kennedy-Nixon debate, which Nixon lost in the public eye partly for being such a sweating mess on camera. A sweating opponent looks nervous, and a hot opponent is anxious…pretty standard GOP psi-ops, these days.
But, Operation Nixon quickly backfired, turning almost instantly into #FanGate.
During the ensuing seven minutes, Charlie Crist got the opportunity of a lifetime — just standing there, smiling, waving, bantering, being quite comfortably governor-y on camera — while the audience simmered in hatred and mockery of his opponent. Eventually, Rick Scott conceded, and came on stage, to an audience of mocking Democrats and embarrassed Republicans.
And he was only seven minutes in.
No surprise then that Crist absolutely crushed Scott in the debate. Point-for-point, calling him out on his failures and lies, particularly about utility price increases under his administration. Scott’s biggest gaffes were (aside from Fangate) attributing a utility-price-increasing bill signed by JEB BUSH to Crist, blaming Crist for Jeb’s Brother’s 2009 Financial Meltdown, and taking the credit for “restoring” Florida’s economy when the national economy finally stabilized. And Crist called him out on every one of them.
By the end of the debate, Crist supporters both there and on the internet were jubilant — while Scott’s supporters quietly filed out, as though leaving a funeral.
And a funeral it might have been for Scott. In a race this close, with a quarter of votes still up for grabs, and both candidates about equally mistrusted (for different reasons), all it takes is one embarrassing, petty backfire like this to tank a candidate’s chances. At this point, for better or worse, voters are choosing based on personality…and Rick Scott just showed exactly what kind of personality he has. So, Charlie Crist may well end up walking away from #fangate with a huge win.
All without breaking a sweat.