Fla. Senate Candidates Face Off in First Debate

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Election Day is less than a month away and all of the congressional campaigns are in full swing.

In the key battleground state of Florida, three candidates seeking the Sunshine State's U.S. Senate seat faced off Wednesday night in their first televised debate.

Candidate Marco Rubio, a Republican and Tea Party favorite, has a commanding lead in the polls -- at almost ten percent. However even with his popularity soaring, his two opponents are not backing down.

It appeared to be a tag team match during the debate as Gov. Charlie Crist, I-Fla., and Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., teamed up against Rubio.

"I think that you want to be elected to move the national ideology for the conservative right -- I'm not on board, on board that train," Meek told Rubio.

"You haven't been drinking the Kool-Aid, my friend. You've been drinking too much tea," Crist said.

A recent poll shows Rubio is benefiting from the voter wrath against Washington, D.C. He's backed by two-thirds of constituents who say they're angry and dissatisfied with the federal government.

During the debate, all three candidates sought to tap into those emotions.

"If you support the direction Washington is taking America, then I'm probably not your candidate," Rubio said to the audience.

"I think both parties are to blame -- that's why I'm running as an Independent," Crist explained.

"I'm leaving a very safe house seat to run for the U.S. Senate, because I'm frustrated with all of the 'no' and the filibuster and all of the things that are going on in the Senate that has this country on lock-down," Meek said.

During the hour-long debate, all three candidates sought to portray each other as extremists. Also, they discussed some of the country's most controversial new programs, including healthcare and stimulus spending.

Because Florida is such a key state, it has a viable third-party candidate in Crist. And with such a charismatic Tea Party candidate -- the election will be watched closely in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is hitting the campaign trail for Democratic candidates in New Jersey, Maryland and Illinois.

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Heather Sells

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