In one of the weirdest and most Floridian moments in debate history, Wednesday night’s gubernatorial debate was delayed because Republican governor Rick Scott refused to take the stage with Democratic challenger Charlie Crist and his small electric fan. The Washington Post notes that Crist, who served as the state’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011 before switching parties, has a well-known penchant for carrying a fan at all times, but Scott claimed the device hidden under his podium violated the debate’s “no electronics rule.”
Instead of waiting for the governor to emerge, the debate started with just Crist onstage. “We have been told that Governor Scott will not be participating in this debate,” said the moderator. The crowd booed as he explained the fan situation, and the camera cut to a shot of the offending cooling device.
“That’s the ultimate pleading the Fifth I have ever heard in my life,” quipped Crist, annoying the moderators, who seemed intent on debating fan rules and regulations. After a few more awkward minutes, Scott emerged, and the debate proceeded, with only one more electronics dispute. When asked why he brought the fan, Crist answered, “Why not? Is there anything wrong with being comfortable? I don’t think there is.”
Sadly, Crist has not changed his campaign slogan to “Vote for me if you like to be comfortable,” but the dispute did continue after the debate. First a Crist adviser tweeted a copy of the rules that seemed to indicate there was a fan exception:
Then the Scott campaign decided it actually doesn’t care about something as petty as a fan, despite all evidence to the contrary. “Charlie Crist can bring his fan, microwave, and toaster to debates - none of that will cover up how sad his record as governor was compared to the success of Rick Scott,” Scott campaign manager Melissa Sellers said in a statement. “Crist should buy a fan for the 832,000 Floridians who lost their jobs while he was governor.”