In what any Very Serious Journalist would consider a disqualifying move that requires the Republican Party to abandon the race completely, Florida Gov. Rick Scott refused to debate his Democratic opponent, the former Republican and former governor of Florida Charlie Crist (because of course; it's Florida!), on Wednesday night. But he had a very good reason. As the debate's moderator, Eliott Rodriguez, explained to the audience:

Ladies and gentlemen we have an extremely peculiar situation right now. …

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, our incumbent governor and the Republican candidate for governor, is also in the building. …

We have been told that Gov. Scott will not be participating in this debate. Now, let me explain what this is all about. Gov. Crist has asked to have a fan, a small fan, placed underneath his podium.

The rules of the debate that I was shown by the Scott campaign say that there should be no fan. Somehow there is a fan there. And for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, I am being told that Gov. Scott will not join us for this debate.

At that point, the audience started booing, and Rodriguez turned to his co-moderator, Rosemary Goudreau, and said, "I don't know. What can we say?" She didn't know what to say either, but Crist sure did: "That's the ultimate pleading of the Fifth I've ever heard."

Oh, snap! Zing! BURN! That one's going to leave a mark or two. Or 75.

At that point, the audience started cheering. And applauding. And any undecided voters left probably started deciding they would vote for the guy who bothered to show up, not the guy back stage throwing a hissy fit. And then it got even worse for AWOL Rick Scott.

Goudreau: Do the rules of the debate say that there should be no fan?

Crist: Not that I'm aware of.

Goudreau: So the rules that the Scott campaign just showed us says that no electronics can be used, including fans --

Crist: Are we really going to debate about a fan? Or are we going to talk about education, and the environment and the future of our state. I mean, really. There are serious issues facing our state, and it's like funding education appropriately, protecting our environment, making sure we have ethical, honest leadership. I mean, if he's going to give it to me, I'm going to take it.

Rodriguez: This is not a platform for one candidate. We're hoping that Gov. Scott will join us on the stage.

Crist: Well, that'd be great.

Rodriguez: And I am told that Gov. Scott will join us on the stage. In all fairness to Gov. Scott, I was shown a copy of the rules that they showed me that said there would be no fans on the podium.

And then the moderators discuss with each other -- on air! for everyone to see and hear and mock! -- just how weird and "remarkable" this situation is. And it is weird and remarkable, but it only got better (for Crist). Because Rick Scott finally dragged his creepy skeletal sack on stage and explained why he was unfashionably late, proving to everyone that he was probably better off not showing up at all. When asked why "the delay," this was his answer:

I waited to figure out if he was going to show up. He said he wasn’t going to come to the, uh, he said he wasn’t going to come to the debate, so why come out until he was ready?

Hmm, let's go back in time about, oh, say, a minute. Remember when there was one guy standing on stage, ready to debate, and it wasn't Rick Scott? Bet Florida voters do.

The Scott campaign released a super sad statement to try to salvage what's left of Scott's dignity:

“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.”

Yeah! And, uh, can also bring his Forman Grill, his margarita machine, and his sub-zero fridge to the debates but it won't matter because he still sucks. So there!

Maybe the current governor should have stayed off stage and sent Clint Eastwood in his place. We hear he's pretty good at debates too.


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