Gov. Rick Scott’s sudden absence at the start of a statewide TV debate reshaped the governor’s race Thursday as event sponsors accused Charlie Crist of breaking the rules and Scott’s side fretted over whether he damaged his re-election prospects.
At the center of the storm was a $20 fan that viewers couldn’t see, quietly whirring at Crist’s feet as he stood alone on stage Wednesday night at Broward College in Davie.
Scott denied that he refused to go on, even though viewers saw his empty podium for seven chaotic minutes. Crist’s campaign and debate organizers gave contradictory accounts of what led to “Fangate” and pundits had another reason to make fun of Florida politics as the fan flap drowned out talk on jobs, education and health care.
“He was sweating and he needed a fan,” Scott told CNN. “I’m surprised he didn’t try to ask for dry ice.”
That’s what worries many Republicans.
“It was a missed opportunity. It was very odd,” said Fort Lauderdale lawyer Ed Pozzuoli, a Scott ally and former Broward County GOP chairman who echoed numerous Republicans. “Gov. Scott has a record that he needs to extol at every opportunity, and the only thing being discussed now is the fan.”