Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State Democratic Primary Race Approaches Dead Heat

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State Democratic Primary Race Approaches Dead Heat

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

Titillating it wasn't.

In fact, calling it a debate is an exaggeration akin to calling a gentle breeze a hurricane.

What we had when the Democratic candidates for governor gathered before the television cameras in Palm Beach Gardens earlier this week was a polite conversation.

Their basic points: They like each other. They don't like Jeb Bush.

Did either of the front- runners -- Bill McBride or Janet Reno -- make a case that he or she was the best candidate to take on Bush in the general election?

Not really. But that wasn't the main goal. Neither of them screwed up and that's important.

Face it: The televised pow-wow didn't draw viewers by the droves. But if one of the candidates had said something outrageous, the video with accompanying sound would have been played over and over.

This primary is going to be won or lost through television ads and news reports. The last thing a candidate wants is for reporters to continuously ask about a slipup. McBride and Reno avoided that.

The third candidate, state Sen. Daryl Jones, probably benefited the most from the joint appearance.

Little known outside his home base of South Florida, Jones needs all of the television time he can get. It also helped that his answers were livelier and more detailed than those of Reno and McBride.

Unless night becomes day, Jones isn't going to win this race, but when voters are exposed to him, they warm to him. He's definitely a player in the future.

Note to Jones, however: Donning the hard hat during your closing statement and proclaiming "let's build a better Florida" was not a good idea. Too reminiscent of Michael Dukakis and the tank and the silly hat.

Moving on. With Election Day less than two weeks away, indications are the race between McBride and Reno is approaching dead-heat status. …

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