With neither candidate offering a true break-out moment, Floridas U.S. Senate contest, at one time expected to be among the top five in the nation, may now rely heavily upon presidential coattails.
Never mind that it retains incalculable importance in deciding who controls the majority of the chamber.
If you wanted to hear talking points, Floridians got to hear plenty on Wednesday during the one and only time that longtime U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, will share the stage with Republican challenger Rep. Connie Mack IV, R-Fort Myers.
They traded barbs on such issues as national defense, immigration and the budget, mostly through pointing fingers at each other over voting records, but offered little specifics on their own plans for advancing the nation.
Mack focused on Nelsons votes to raise taxes and for President Barack Obamas health care overhaul.
We've seen year after year after year, we've added a trillion dollars to new debt every year. Now some of us, myself included, believe that we need to cut spending and we need to rein in our debt and our deficits, Mack said. Now Senator Nelson serves on the budget committee and for almost four years has failed to pass a budget."
Nelson was quick to respond that Mack was often being untruthful.
"Not only did we pass a budget, we passed it in law last year, Nelson said. This wasn't a budget resolution that doesn't have the force of law. This was an actual act signed into law by the president."
The race has tightened in latest polls as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has risen in the polls, something Mack has admitted will boost his senatorial efforts. Mack again noted that Wednesday.
Mitt Romney needs someone whom he can count on, Mack said. We need another Republican senator from the state of Florida. Im asking you to stand with Mitt Romney.
The campaign teams both claimed victory.
Yet students at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, where the debate was held, said in post-event analyses that they didnt hear either candidate speak to viewers or provide anything outside their platform.
Also, University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus, who has called the contest the most unusual Senate race I've ever seen," said the Nelson-Mack contest, as well as the debate Tuesday between President Obama and Romney, was alienating women voters.
MacManus said that while women dont vote as a single bloc, they do tend to wait later than men to decide on selecting their candidate.
The tone and lack of civility, the lack of respect, two gentlemen screaming over each other, is not something that women voters find very attractive, MacManus said.
What theyre saying:
Peter Schorsch, SaintPetersblog
Know how everyone on @Morning_Joe talks about the big debates in certain states? Yeah, well, they won't be talking about #FLSen tmrw.
Marc Caputo, Miami Herald
Connie Mack isn't winning in any credible poll. Even if people watched tonight's FL Sen debate, it wasn't enough to unseat Nelson
Justin Snyder, Palm Beach campaign consultant
The sound you hear is Jeb Bush repeatedly bashing his head against a wall for not getting into #FLSen.
Comments released from Macks campaign
Former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton
Tonight Connie Mack demonstrated why Florida needs an honest, conservative voice in Washington, D.C. At a time of great economic uncertainty both at home and abroad, Connies resolve to bring our exploding national debt and deficit under control is the prescription for helping get our economy growing again. The freedom, security, and prosperity of this great nation cannot be compromised by liberal, political double talk in Washington, D.C., instead it must protected by steadfast defenders who speak clearly and honestly. Connie Mack is that defender and I am honored to support him.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
Connie Macks positive, conservative vision for Florida revealed stark differences between a leader with a plan and one who has simply run out of ideas after 40 years in elected office. Our state and nation are at a crossroads and we cannot afford the same failed, liberal policies of the Obama-Nelson team for another term. Tonight, Connie Mack won the debate, and on Election Day he will give a newly elected President Mitt Romney the crucial support and vote in the U.S. Senate necessary to overturn Obamacare and restore our economy.
Congressman Steve Southerland (R-2nd)
As a third-generation small-business owner, I'm fighting every day in Congress to return fiscal sanity to Washington, D.C. It is what my constituents sent me there to do. I am as proud of Connie Mack's performance tonight as I am of his hard work in Congress. Connie gets it. He is laser focused on fixing our debt and deficit crisis and knows that our economy will improve once we get our fiscal house in order. Clearly, tonight Connie won because of that focus.
Florida State Senator John Thrasher
Connie Macks clear and focused commitment to getting our fiscal house in order has served him well from his days as a member in the Florida House to his time in Congress and now in his bid to be Floridas next U.S. senator. Tonight that focus was on full display as he passionately displayed why we need to quickly pivot away from the liberal, spendthrift ways of Obama and Nelson. Connie won the debate tonight and on Election Day the voters of Florida will reward him with a win as well.
Reach Jim Turner at email@example.com or at (772) 215-9889.