Florida governors race tied. What happened to #fangate?

Political commentators speculated that last week's #fangate controversy could alter the course of the race for Florida governor. But how much do voters really care about the candidates' spat over a fan?

Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union/AP
Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, (l.), and Republican Gov. Rick Scott wait for their live televised debate, Tuesday hosted by WJXT-TV and CNN at the Channel 4 studios in Jacksonville, Fla.

It looks like #fangate hasn’t made any difference in the Florida gubernatorial race. With less than two weeks until Election Day, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows the race remains as tight as a body-builder’s T-shirt, with incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic challenger (and former Republican) Charlie Crist tied at 42 percent of the vote apiece.

Remember the fan controversy? Last week Governor Scott refused to walk on stage to begin a debate because Mr. Crist had an electric fan stashed under his podium. Scott said that violated debate rules barring electronic devices.

Even conservatives thought Scott looked obstinate as the minutes ticked away and the moderators played for time. Eventually he relented and walked out as if nothing had happened.

Crist, meanwhile, looked a tad smug. Subsequent stories dwelt on his almost obsessive relationship with mechanical cooling devices.

Well, it turns out that’s all breezes under a bridge. The Quinnipiac survey results are right in line with other recent surveys of the race. So it looks as if the curious incident of the fan in the nighttime did not help either candidate.

Right now the RealClearPolitics average of major surveys has Crist with a tiny 0.8 percent lead. That’s a tie given margins of error. That’s exactly where the race stood at the end of September.

The Florida gubernatorial race is thus a true toss-up. At this point the fundamentals of the election are set. It appears the result will depend on turn-out.

“For all the money spent on this race, it now appears the winner will be the one whose organization excels at the blocking and tackling of politics – getting their voters to the polls,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, in a statement.

Scott and Crist had their final debate on Tuesday night and the fan thing didn’t come up, except when a moderator, CNN’s Jake Tapper, asked if everybody was comfortable.

Each tried to paint the other as an out-of-touch plutocrat. Crist hit Scott, a wealthy businessman, for traveling on private jets and living in a waterfront mansion. Scott said Crist, the son of a physician, grew up with privilege.

The most notable exchange may have occurred over the question of whether Scott knowingly delayed the execution of a condemned criminal so that his attorney general could attend a fundraiser.

Scott said his attorney general has apologized for the incident and he had no idea what she was doing at the time. He attempted to appear indifferent to this issue, writes The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, but produced a sort of wide-eye stare instead.

“It . . . didn’t come off well,” writes Bump on The Fix political blog.

Gamechanger? No – remember fangate. It’s likely just another shiny political distraction on the way to actual voting. 

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