Posted: January 25, 2008 12:43 PM
Civility Reigns in GOP Florida Debate
Republican contenders for the party’s nomination were painstakingly polite to one another in Thursday night’s MSNBC-hosted candidate debate in Florida — a pivotal state for the GOP hopefuls when voters go to the polls for Tuesday’s primary.
Although the five remaining candidates, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Arizona Sen. John McCain and Texas Rep. Ron Paul were given ample opportunity to address one another directly on policy discrepancies, the candidates used the debate to, instead, largely agree with one another as they all tried to appeal to Florida voters and prove their clout as the field’s true conservative.
Huckabee proposed spending $150 billion on a highway between Miami and Bangor Maine, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“A lot of people in Florida sit around in traffic every day, never getting to their kids’ dance recitals or soccer games because they’re stuck in traffic, and we’ve done nothing about it,” he said.
Giuliani, who has made winning Florida the lynchpin to his eventual success, said he wanted to build a national catastrophe fund to help curb homeowner’s insurance in the hurricane-susceptible state. Despite skipping earlier contests to focus on Florida, however, Giuliani is currently polling behind Romney and McCain and tied for third with Huckabee, the Associated Press reported.
After spending millions on attack ads targeting Huckabee in Iowa and McCain in New Hampshire, Romney took few digs at his opponents, and “both Romney and McCain appeared relaxed and confident as they headed into a race that has the two men battling each other for first place,” the Boston Globe reported.
Still, amid race shake-ups and shaky polling in this year’s primaries, Giuliani is counting on absentee and early voters to give him an unexpected boost.
“He has get-out-the-vote programs catering to both,” the AP reported. “He’s also counting on a large number of New York retirees in Florida to carry him to victory.”
And while Thursday night’s debate was largely peaceful, the Republicans did manage to get aggressive on one topic: Democratic candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
“McCain denounced Clinton for what he described as her ‘white flag of surrender’ policy toward the future of American involvement in Iraq; Romney won applause from the crowd — despite the urgings from the moderators not to clap — for his derisive reference to the New York Senator as ‘General Hillary Clinton,’” the Washington Post reported.
When Romney was asked how he would run against both Clintons, he responded: “I frankly can’t wait, because the idea of Bill Clinton in back in the White House with nothing to do is something I just can’t imagine.” The former governor declined to elaborate.