DAVIE, Fla. -- The first and only debate between
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican challenger Rep. Connie Mack
IV Wednesday came across almost like the old school-yard taunt, "I know
you are, but what am I?"
Both candidates accused
each other of lying about the other's records, both used the "there you
go again" line made famous three decades ago by President Ronald Reagan
and both strayed from the subject of questions to take shots at the
The debate wasn't
so much a look at what the candidates will support if elected, but
rather a lot of finger pointing about each other's records to date.
began the debate by accusing Nelson of voting 150 times to raise
taxes, voting to gut the military and being the deciding vote on
President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Nelson immediately
balked, saying "I'm looking forward to pointing out what the truth is
because everything the congressman just said is not true."
And thus the stage was set for a bitter hour-long exchange.
Nelson cast the deciding vote to cut $700 billion out of Medicare. What
did Senator Nelson say before the vote? He said it is unconscionable to
whack away Medicare Advantage from our seniors, but that's exactly what
he did," Mack said.
Nelson did vote for the health care overhaul, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson
was the last Democrat to commit to the bill. Nelson also pointed out
that he negotiated a deal that protected Florida seniors already
enrolled in Medicaid Advantage, a private plan for seniors paid for by
the government. And he said the $700 billion was a savings, not a cut to
beneficiaries. The law cuts Medicare spending for hospitals and other
providers by more than $700 billion over a decade.
not going to let you get away with this. The $716 billion was in fact
savings that extended the life of Medicare for eight years. Medicare was
going to run out in three years," Nelson said. "He voted to cut
Medicare by taking away the guaranteed benefit with a voucher that a
senior citizen would have to negotiate with an insurance company."
debate was held at Nova Southeastern University in Davie and organized
by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association.
repeated several lines over and over, including one saying Nelson says
one thing in Florida and then votes differently in Washington - an
effort to paint him as a liberal who supports Obama with nearly every
vote while maintaining an image as a moderate back home.
Nelson drew laughs when responding to one of the comments.
"Is that the only line that you have memorized?" Nelson said.
Nelson repeated some lines of his own, like accusing Mack of missing too many votes as a congressman.
haven't talked about all of the tax cuts that I've voted for," Nelson
said. "Let' talk about the votes you missed. When you show up, it's even
worse because you try to take out Medicare and Social Security."
avoided a question about how to balance the budget without raising
taxes or cutting Medicare, Social Security and the military by saying
the solution is creating jobs, which would increase revenue.
going to make sure that job creators are going to get back in the game.
If you want more revenue to come into the federal government, you do it
by putting people back to work," he said. "The best economic engine we
have is the American people."
answered the question by pointing to Medicare savings already enacted
and by saying U.S. troops can be removed from European bases that were
established in the Cold War.
pair was hampered by the one minute, 15 second limit they had to answer
most questions, leaving little time for full and complete responses.
debate ended almost as bitterly as it began. Nelson accused Mack of
voting for a bill that defines rape as "forcible rape" and of illegally
claiming two property tax homestead exemptions. Mack's wife, California
Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack has an exemption on her home while Mack has
an exemption on his Fort Myers condo.
you keep talking about my record," Mack said. "I think you might have
looked somebody else up when you've been doing your research because
it's not me."
"There you go again," said Nelson, referring to earlier in the debate when Mack used a similar line.
"Apparently I have to keep doing it again because you just don't understand. And that's the problem," Mack said.