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Mitch Perry Report for 10.17.16 — Will recent experience play a factor in tonight’s U.S. Senate debate?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Floridians will get their first chance to observe Marco Rubio and Patrick Murphy in the same room together when they engage in their first debate of Florida’s U.S. Senate contest in Orlando tonight.

Trailing by an average of around five percentage points through all of the polling, Murphy needs to have a big performance in him to begin to narrow that gap, especially with so many people already voting on every day in early mail voting.

First impressions matter — this the first time many Floridians will ever have seen Murphy (other than in commercials depicting him as the worst congressman in the country who lies about his resume). But if he can convincingly portray Rubio as an absentee senator who still isn’t interested in fulfilling a six-year term, he might score some points.

But if you were going to make a prediction beforehand, you’d have to like the Republican Senator’s chances. He’s much more battle tested on the debate stage, having participated in more than a dozen high-stake debates over the past year during his unsuccessful run for president (Yes, OK, there was that one moment in Manchester, New Hampshire with Chris Christie, but let’s forget about that for a moment).

And Murphy’s experience on the debate stage? Not much, lately.

You might recall back in July where Murphy was frustrating his Democratic primary opponents, Alan Grayson and Pam Keith, by avoiding to commit to a debate. After domestic-violence allegations made against Grayson from his ex-wife went public, Murphy said his opponent didn’t deserve “the platform,” and opted to not engage in any debates.

Some people (OK, me, for one) thought that was a bad idea on a number of fronts, one of them being that going ahead and conducting such a debate could help prep him for his ultimate confrontation with Rubio.

He opted out. Was that a mistake? We’ll know more by 8 this evening.

And will there only be two men on the stage in Orlando tonight? Independent candidate Steven Machat is back in court this morning to see if he and the other handful of independents can get on the debate stage in Orlando tonight.

In other news …

At a candidates forum Saturday, two Tampa City Council District 7 candidates got into it on the issue of the police.

The PPP survey released Friday showed Hillary Clinton with just a four-percentage point lead over Donald Trump in Florida, though his favorable/unfavorable rankings are tanking and hers are improving.

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has been besieged by for years, but now it’s their boss, Kyle Cockream, making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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