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The Midterms: Crist, Rubio debate

With anger toward Washington high, Stu Rothenberg asks (and answers), "So is this the time for third-party candidates and Independents to show their political muscle and become serious players in the fall campaigns and in November? In a few places the answer is 'yes.' In most, it's still a thundering 'no.' There are really three types of Independent hopefuls: contenders, spoilers and pretenders."

FLORIDA: The St. Pete Times on yesterday's Crist-Rubio debate: "Fox News Sunday cast it as a 'rough and tumble battle,' and for 40 minutes, Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio gave a national audience just that, arguing about a lot of things that ultimately were about two: money and President Barack Obama. It was Gov. Crist, who has worked hard to cultivate a nice-guy image, immediately and aggressively questioning Rubio's character over reports he misused Republican Party money and a campaign 'slush fund' for 'personal enrichment.'"

The New York Times says the debate came down to dollars and cents. "The question posed to the state's Republican voters was which is worse: Mr. Rubio's use of campaign contributions for personal expenses when he served in the Florida Legislature, including as speaker of the House? Or Mr. Crist's support of the federal stimulus package?"

The Times also says there were surprises. "Mr. Rubio … said that, if elected, he would consider raising the age for Social Security benefit payouts and slowing the cost-of-living increases for recipients in his generation when they reach retirement age. Mr. Crist, 53, said repeatedly and almost unequivocally that although he was behind in the polls by double digits, he would stay in the Republican column and not run as an independent."

Politico: "Crist not only defended his embrace of the stimulus but said that he would have voted for it had he been in the Senate…  But, recognizing that discussing the merits of the stimulus won't help him make up ground in the primary, Crist used the session to take aim at Rubio's character."

Heard on the Hill in Roll Call "applauds a man who's man enough to indulge in some springtime grooming. Kudos, then, to Rep. Kendrick Meek, who got a pedicure at the Capitol Nails salon Thursday night. The Florida Democrat didn't seem embarrassed at all about his need to get his feet tended to, arriving at the popular salon in a suit with two staffers in tow. He sat in a pedicure station near a window overlooking Massachusetts Avenue, where the passersby included plenty of Hill aides, says an HOH spy who witnessed the exfoliation session firsthand. Meek, who's running for Senate, asked one of the fellows with him whether he had ever had a pedi. When the staffer answered in the negative, Meek joked, 'You never forget your first time.'"

ILLINOIS: Gov. Pat Quinn announced on Friday that his preferred running mate in his re-election bid is Sheila Simon, daughter of late Sen. Paul Simon. "First she and Quinn have to persuade the 38-member Democratic State Central Committee, which votes Saturday to fill the second-banana spot left vacant when embattled Chicago pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen dropped out just days after his surprise Feb. 2 primary win," the Chicago Tribune writes.

MASSACHUSETTS: The Boston Globe looks at where the lives of Democratic incumbent Gov. Deval Patrick and GOP challenger Charles Baker intersected: "They were only a class apart at Harvard College. Their dorms shared a common kitchen. They both belonged to the Hasty Pudding Club. But Charles D. Baker and Deval Patrick did not forge a real relationship until three decades after they graduated, when Patrick called his fellow Harvard alum and suggested they run for governor and lieutenant governor on a 'bipartisan ticket.' It was an unusual proposition -- Patrick is a Democrat, Baker a Republican -- and Baker ultimately decided against a political partnership. Still, if the two were not exactly political allies, neither were they adversaries." 
 
NEW YORK: Gov. Paterson likened himself Sunday to people who have suffered unfair 'torment' throughout history - and said God would be his ultimate judge," the New York Daily News writes. " 'Many people who were undeserving have gone through all kinds of torment in history,' he said. 'When I look at it against that backdrop, I feel a little better.'"