After watching the Rubio-Crist debate, there’s only one conclusion that can be drawn: Marco Rubio dominated the debate. Rubio was articulate in answering FNS host Chris Wallace’s questions directly. Meanwhile, Gov. Crist repeatedly came across as an angry attacker. When the reviews are written, I’m betting that this exchange will be the most damaging to Gov. Crist:

“I think it was the right thing to do at the time,” Crist said of the package, noting that the U.S. economy “was literally falling off a cliff” in late 2008 and early 2009. “Things are starting to stabilize now and they’re getting better in Florida.”

But former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, in a debate with Crist on “Fox News Sunday”, argued that the stimulus has increased the national debt without saving 211,000 jobs lost in Florida since the bill became law 13 months ago.

“Well, I don’t know how you define stability. Having the highest unemployment rate in Florida’s history is certainly not stability, especially to the one out of 10 Floridians that can’t find a job,” Rubio said.

With unemployment hitting an all-time high, saying that Florida’s economy had stabilized was a major mistake and Crist knows it. It makes him sound like he’s out of touch with reality, which he appeared to be before that gaffe. This won’t help Crist either:

Defending his support, and the widely disseminated image of him hugging Obama during a trip to Florida to promote the legislation, Crist said that as a “common sense, practical conservative,” he would “work to make sure that I stand with people who will help the people of my state and my country.”

“And you can’t just be off on some limb, you know, rattling the cage and saying you’re going to do great things and stand on principle or politics above the people of your state that you’re supposed to serve,” he said.

Rubio’s reply was crisp and lethal:

Rubio said he would be more than happy to work with people who want to help his state, but Democrats in Washington are trying to “fundamentally redefine the role of government in America and we can’t cooperate with” taking action like spending $787 billion “we don’t have.” “How does that in any way make sense for Florida or our country?” he asked.

Gov. Crist saying that he’s a “practical conservative” was a mistake because it reminds people of President George W. Bush’s compassionate conservative moniker. Rubio’s saying that there are times when seeking consensus can’t be done because the Democrats’ proposals are destructive. Rubio essentially said that you’d need to abandon conservative principles to build consensus with Democrats on the stimulus, health care and cap and trade.

Here’s Jonathan Martin’s take on the debate:

In a 40-minute face-off broadcast nationally on “Fox News Sunday,” Rubio hammered Crist for supporting Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package, a bill deeply unpopular with conservative voters likely to turn out for the August 24 primary.

“The choice for Republicans in Florida is: Do you want a candidate that would have stood up to Barack Obama, voted against the stimulus and supported something that would have cost less money and created more jobs?” said Rubio. “If that’s the candidate you want, that would be me. Or do you want the next Republican senator from Florida to be someone who would have voted with the Democrats for the stimulus package, and that candidate would be Gov. Crist?”

It’s that frame on the race that has enabled the once-underfunded Rubio to stake out a double-digit lead against Crist, the early establishment favorite.

If the primary is decided on who best represents Florida’s priorities, then Crist is history. At this point, Crist’s chances of winning are tiny. He was upstaged on policy. Rubio highlighted Gov. Crist’s decisionmaking by linking him to President Obama’s failed stimulus plan and Florida’s record unemployment rates. Those things will be highlighted the rest of this campaign.

SIDENOTE: Kendrick Meek is history, too, because he voted for health care, cap and trade and the Democrats’ stimulus package.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

5 Responses to “Rubio Dominates FNS Debate”

  • Chuck says:

    Good commentary. We need to pick off the RINO at every turn. No more consensus, “can’t we all get along” candidates. Let’s watch the Hayworth/McCain race in Arizona.

  • R-Five says:

    I’ve only seen the first half, the rerun I taped preempted by Obama’s Afgan visit. But what I saw was almost sad in a way. He seems oblivious to how out of step he is with the times, petty and chippy, like the child vs the adult, Rubio.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Rex, This goes deeper than Crist, too. The NRSC didn’t trust in Rubio’s ability to connect with voters. That mindset must be eliminated a week after the midterm elections. The funding will come if you’ve got the message that connects with people. Ditto with the name ID.

  • R-Five says:

    But I wonder. If Crist had proved the better communicator, like a Norm Coleman, what would people be saying. Hugh Hewitt of course would be all in with Crist, since winner elections (not victories) is all that matters to him.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Rex, Hugh actually said that Marco should be the GOP senatorial candidate in Florida right from the outset. Hugh considers Marco to be a great political talent.

    BTW, I had the privilege of introducing Norm at a BPOU fundraiser in January. The Norm I talked with was a different Norm than Sen. Coleman. The Norm I talked with that night sounded like he’d caught TEA Party fever. I don’t know if he’ll run for elected office again (I suspect he will at some point in time.) but if he does, we’d be getting a ‘new & improved’ Norm Coleman.

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