The final debate between U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy began much like you would expect a tightening Senate race in the most populous swing state in America.
Just minutes into their hourlong debate Wednesday night, Murphy blasted Rubio for missing votes to run for president and accused him of lying.
“Senator if you voted as much as you lied, you might actually be a decent senator,” Murphy said.
Rubio returned fire, calling Murphy a “serial embellisher” for discrepancies on his résumé and as someone who has failed to get anything done in his short career in the U.S. House.
“He’s been there for four years and nobody has even noticed,” Rubio said.
Public polling suggests the race is narrowing and could break either way. Three major polls released in the last two weeks have shown the race a dead heat or within the margin of error, yet Rubio has not trailed in any public polling since the start of September.
Already more than 2 million ballots have been cast through vote-by-mail and early voting in Florida.
Rubio used the debate to frequently tout himself as more accomplished than Murphy during their short tenures in Congress.
“I have real concrete achievements I can point to,” the first-term senator said.
Rubio cited work on the Everglades, efforts to fight human trafficking and pressure he’s brought on slumlords around the state as evidence he’s been doing his job.
“We all know he never shows up to work,” Murphy countered.
Murphy said he has worked more across the aisle on citrus research, on the Everglades and to address the backlog at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“These accomplishments are in stark contrast to my opponent who doesn’t even show up to work,” Murphy said.
The candidates also clashed once again over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Nineteen times during the debate Murphy brought up Trump — and Rubio’s support for him.
“A noun a verb and Donald Trump, that is his answer to everything,” Rubio responded.
On other key issues the two clashed over how to handle Social Security and the Affordable Care Act. Rubio warned if Social Security isn’t altered for future beneficiaries, the program will go bankrupt. He said his plan wouldn’t alter the program for current beneficiaries or those close to retirement.
“Anyone who tells you we can leave it like it is lying,” Rubio said.
Murphy said he opposed raising the retirement age and accused Rubio of seeking to privatize it — something Rubio said isn’t true.
Murphy defended the Affordable Care Act as a huge step forward that needs “fixing.” But Rubio, who has supported repealing Obamacare, said Murphy only wants to make it bigger. He said it would be better for employers to give workers health care money to buy any insurance they want tax free and provide tax credits to people who buy private health insurance.
The debate at Broward College was sponsored by Leadership Florida and the Florida Press Association. It was moderated by Todd McDermott, news anchor for WPBF ABC25 in West Palm Beach, with questions posed by Neil Brown, editor and vice president of the Tampa Bay Times, and Patricia Mazzei, political writer for the Miami Herald.