Most everyone who has been following the race between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republikkkan challenger Katherine Harris agrees that Harris needed a strong showing in last night’s debate in order to chip away at Nelson’s 20 to 30 point lead in the polls.
[A]fter fielding an hour’s worth of questions from journalists and each other, the Republican congresswoman wound up agreeing with the Democratic incumbent about as often as she differed with him.
Withdraw troops from Iraq? Neither favored the idea.
Create a national fund to manage disasters? Nelson said it was his brainchild, and Harris said she fought for it. Both also said military action against North Korea should be “on the table” and that global warming “is a fact.” They both agreed the nation needed to develop more alternative fuels.
Harris complained after the debate that Nelson was given “softball” questions while she was criticized as “polarizing.”
“In all my previous races, we’ve been the underdog and we’ve prevailed,” she said in her closing remarks.
Nelson talked slowly and methodically. He rarely acknowledged Harris and repeatedly called her “Ms. Harris” — overlooking her status as a member of Congress. When she accused him of failing to return tainted money, he responded calmly: “That’s simply not true.”
In contrast, Harris gestured frequently, spoke with emotion and seemed a bit flustered.
Sensing a barrage of attacks was coming, Nelson invoked President John F. Kennedy: “People expect more from us than indignation and attacks.”
But neither really came from Harris. And Nelson held back on attacking her. He left it to the debate panel to mention her unwitting receipt of illegal campaign contributions from a now convicted defense contractor, Mitchell Wade of MZM. She sponsored a failed appropriations request after the contributions were made.
Harris pointed out that she had no way of knowing the contributions were illegal.
“I have also wanted extraordinary transparency. Whenever we have appropriations requests, I’ve published those,” Harris said. “Everyone can see my requests that I’ve asked for. The senator will not show his requests because of the tie-back to those who may have contributed to him.”
But despite the claim, Harris’s office has denied repeated press inquiries for most of her appropriations requests.
Harris’ strongest attack on Nelson came when she said he unwittingly took money from insurance company Riscorp — as did she — but refused to return the tainted contributions. She returned donations from the insurer.
Said Nelson, a former state insurance commissioner: “That’s simply not true, what my opponent has said . . . Talk about Riscorp. Not only did I return all of that [money]. I put the company out of business. I shut ’em down.”