One says his favorite senator is Jim DeMint, the other prefers McCain and Lindsey Graham. Guess which is which. In case you’re not inclined to watch, I’ll give you a choice of pieces to skim — the NYT recap, which covers most of the noteworthy exchanges, or the full transcript from CQ Politics. Crist obviously didn’t want to have this debate — the higher Rubio’s name recognition gets, the better he polls — but a man trailing by double digits is in no position to say no. His goal here was to define Rubio for the viewers who are seeing him for the first time; hence the “slush fund” attacks right out of the box, a point he returned to throughout.
The big surprise: Crist vowed that he won’t run as an independent or quit the race for another shot as governor. It’s Republican Senate nominee or bust. The exchange on Social Security surprised me too. Rubio said raising the retirement age has to be on the table — a risky proposition in a Florida primary, but a no-brainer policy-wise given the looming entitlement crisis. Crist’s response?
WALLACE: Governor Crist, we looked all over your campaign Web site. Frankly, we couldn’t find a word about Social Security reform.
CRIST: Well, I think it’s important that we understand Social Security must be saved. It must be protected. The idea of having a higher age for people to be able to be eligible for Social Security really flies in the face of an awful lot of my fellow Floridians and it’s something that I would not advocate.
I think we need to take the fraud out of Social Security, the waste, as with — it is in Medicare as well. I’d like to get back to something that you were talking about with the speaker, and that is taxes.
WALLACE: Well, we’re going to get to taxes in a moment, but I would like to get your answer–
CRIST: I haven’t had a chance to talk about taxes.
WALLACE: We’re — I said we’re going to get to taxes in a moment.
CRIST: Thank you. Thanks.
WALLACE: But the question I have for you is you’re saying that even for people under the age of 55 you would not raise the retirement age or you wouldn’t change the cost-of-living adjustment?
CRIST: No, I would not. No, I would not do that.
He also said he would have voted for the stimulus. What could go wrong?