Murphy take note: Allen West’s 2010 debate with Ron Klein

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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