With the Florida primary now over, things are about to get white hot in at least one local Congressional race.
U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Jupiter, and businessman Patrick Murphy are seeking election to Florida’s newly-drawn18th Congressional District seat. Last week, a pro-Murphy PAC, organized by Murphy’s father, ran an unsavory attack ad depicting West in a boxing ring punching out elderly white women.
Possibly it was this ad that gave West the idea to issue a challenge to Murphy Wednesday morning — just West and Murphy, mano a mano. Rather than a boxing ring, the venue would be an auditorium. Instead of a display of strength, endurance and mastery of the pugilistic arts, it would be a battle — or rather four battles — of wits, mental agility and knowledge of today’s issues. West challenged Murphy to four debates in a letter that said, “Each debate will have a separate and specific focus: two debates will focus on economic security, another on energy security and the final on national security,”
Generally, challengers for office are the ones who suggest debates — not incumbents. Incumbents have everything to lose; challengers can only gain. If an incumbent makes a bad showing at a debate, he can lose credibility and the advantage he had just by being an incumbent. If a challenger bests the incumbent, his star can suddenly rise.
When I think of great local debates, I think of Oct. 12, 2010, when “dumb Neanderthal soldier” West debated “smart Congressman-lawyer” Ron Klein at Lynn University in Boca Raton. West eviscerated Klein, and from that moment forward, the election’s outcome was never in doubt.
Will Murphy accept the West challenge? I have no idea. If he declines he risks being labeled a coward; if he says yes, he risks being called the fool. But before Murphy decides, he should have a talk with former Congressman Klein. He won’t be hard to find — Murphy only has to follow the drag marks left by Klein’s tail after that debate.
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