Charlie Crist campaign wastes no time using FanGate to raise money
Rick Scott tries to explain FanGate to CNN

What should Rick Scott do now about Charlie Crist and FanGate

Every election cycle folks ask - who is going to win? One reason it is a difficult question to answer is that despite polls, gazzillion dollar campaigns, field operations, get-out-the-vote drives, endless television commercials and all the other things that are part of campaigning - one silly mistake can destroy a candidate.

The real question right now is this - did Florida Governor Rick Scott's refusal to take the debate stage last night do his campaign irreparable harm? And is there anything he can do to stop it?

A compilation of news videos put together by American Bridge - an outfit that actively campaigns against Scott - accurately reflects the tone of the Florida and national coverage of what is being called FanGate.

Scott refused to come onstage during a live, statewide television debate because his opponent, Democrat Charlie Crist, had sneaked in a fan to be tucked under the podium gently sending cooling air up his suit.

Leadership Florida and Florida Press Association, the debate organizers, said today that Crist violated the rules by having his ever present fan with him. 

But was that enough of a reason for a sitting governor to refuse to go onstage during a live debate - Charlie has a fan and I'm mad.

Whether you agree with Scott or not, his refusal to come onstage for almost 7 minutes made him look petulant and silly. And he is getting killed in the state and national press. FanGate has gone viral on social media.

So far, the Scott campaign seems to be struggling to get ahead of the story. And it is not like FanGate is going away anytime soon. There is a final debate Tuesday on CNN raising the question - Fan or No Fan?

Scott needs to put the fan behind him. He should allow Crist to have his fan. In fact, Scott should walk on the CNN stage and present Crist with a fan.

After the debate, some of the Republicans leaving the hall were wringing their hands and shaking their heads over Scott's refusal to come onstage.

"It’s not up there with Rick Perry’s ‘oops’ moment, but it’s pretty close. Everybody who is a Republican political consultant or a fellow party member is trying to spin this, but it’s hard,” GOP consultant Alex Patton told Politico.

How serious is the political fallout for Scott - do a Google search for "FanGate."

Scott's debate advisor is Brett O'Donnell, who most recently was chief strategist for the Michelle Bachmann presidential campaign. Yes that Michelle Bachmann. He also spent 18 years as Director of Debate at Liberty University.

Scott and O'Donnell were adamant about not taking the stage until the fan was gone, according to one Republican source familiar with the event. 

"So, let's get one thing clear: Rick Scott never refused to take the stage and debate," Scott campaign manager Melissa Sellers wrote in a statement to the media. "In fact, our campaign was not notified Charlie had even taken the stage because the last we heard, Crist was in an 'emergency meeting' with debate organizers pleading for his precious fan."

That statement does not exactly square with what the media panel said about Scott's refusal to come onstage.

But the real problem now is: how does Scott get out from under this?

It may be time to unleash the bomb that they have been holding onto for the final days of the campaign. It is likely that Scott's folks on hanging on to one little tidbit that they want to bombard the airwaves with while it is too late for Crist to respond. 

Or maybe, Scott has some bold announcement about what he would do during his second term that would get voters excited.

Whatever the Scott campaign has, it needs to use it now.



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