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Politics / Issues

Scott, Crist to Meet in First Gubernatorial Debate

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Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Republican-turned-Democrat former Gov. Charlie Crist will meet in the first of three debates tonight in a race that is too close to call less than a month from Election Day.

Telemundo will host the first debate in an exchange that was taped this morning and broadcast in Florida at 7 p.m. Friday on the Spanish-language network.

The campaigns were already setting expectations for viewers, with the Scott campaign portraying Crist as a smooth talker who is experienced at debating.

"Keep your eye on Charlie Crist during these debates, a slick mudslinging politician who's good at this stuff, really good at it," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told reporters while campaigning with Scott on Wednesday.

Scott's campaign mocked Crist's political conversion and the different stands he's taken on a number of issues.

"Governor Scott has been working hard to keep track of the many positions Charlie Crist has taken on every issue. As a professional flip-flopper, we know that Charlie will be prepared for the upcoming debates since he's spent so much time debating himself," Scott campaign spokesman Greg Blair said.

Former Sen. Dan Gelber played the role of Scott as Crist prepared for the debate.

"The debates offer a great opportunity to communicate directly with voters and hold Rick Scott accountable for his record," Crist campaign spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said. "Charlie's been preparing to counter Rick Scott's lies and false attacks, which we fully expect to continue, while communicating a positive vision about a Florida where everyone gets a fair shot."

While Scott has a reputation as being awkward at delivering speeches or talking with reporters, he fared well in the 2010 gubernatorial debates and is very disciplined at staying on message.

Crist, though, is far more experienced, having participated in debates in five previous statewide elections.

A second debate hosted by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association will be held next week. WUSF 89.7 will air the debate live, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 15.

CNN will host the final debate Oct. 21, in Jacksonville.

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