#Column: Blowing in the (Fan-Produced) Wind

That’ll surely take the air out of your sails…

#Column: Blowing in the (Fan-Produced) Wind

And they wonder why people call it Flori-Duh.

Fan-gate, if you haven’t already heard, is the actual story about how the second debate between Florida’s gubernatorial (goober-natorial?) candidates almost didn’t take place. And it all revolved around the rotating blades of a small fan. And if it weren’t so important to the future of the state, it would be downright hilarious. Okay, it really is downright hilarious.

Wednesday night in Davie, Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist almost didn’t meet for their second debate. After an initial delay in which neither candidate came to their respective podiums, Crist strode onto the stage… but Scott was nowhere to be seen. It’s probably best to let the debate moderator, CBS4’s Eliot Rodriguez, describe the scene:

“Ladies and gentlemen we have an extremely peculiar situation right now… We have been told that Gov. Scott will not be participating in this debate. Gov. Crist has asked to have a fan, a small fan underneath the 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.”

As someone who has participated in debates, both as a candidate and a moderator, I can’t tell you just how much a small fan gives you such a huge psychological advantage over your opponents. Seriously, I can’t tell you. I’ve never used one at a debate, although I reserve the right to use this powerful weapon in future candidate events! The agreement between the candidates specified no electronic devices, probably so a candidate wouldn’t have an iPad with notes or Internet capabilities (although Gov. Crist produced his agreement with a handwritten addendum saying that he might indeed bring his trusty fan). Perhaps Gov. Crist had notes engraved on the fan blades. Perhaps Gov. Scott is hypnotized by rotating devices or annoyed by the rumble of wind noise in the microphone. Whatever the reason, Gov. Scott did not come to the stage until seven minutes had passed with Gov. Crist and the moderators shooting the breeze while the audience booed and grew restless.

Needless to say, the media and the Twitter-verse are having big fun with what they’re now calling Fangate. Charlie Crist’s fan has had its own Twitter page since 2010, and seriously, Gov. Crist does take his fan – a Vornado Air Circulator – wherever he goes. Perhaps it’s all about the old adage of never letting them see you sweat. And Charlie always looks good – perfect tan, perfect hair always in place. Gov. Scott has perfect hair as well… Well, he never has to worry about his hair being out of place, anyway.

Now, I’m not sure what happened backstage at the debate. I don’t know if Gov. Scott “threw a tantrum” (a media quote) or listened to whichever of his advisors thought it was a good idea to boycott the fan-fueled debate for seven long minutes. One media pundit, Mark Caputo, tweeted, “Privately, Republicans/Rick Scott loyalists are telling me the moment he didn’t go onstage over fangate was the moment he lost the election.” Republican operative Christian Camara tweeted, “Whoever made the call to not let @ScottforFlorida on stage over such a triviality should be fired. Tonight. I’ve held my tongue long enough.” And whatever message either candidate wanted to get across to voters has been overshadowed by the spectacle surrounding a small fan.

You don’t have to be a fan of Florida politics to appreciate the absolute absurdity of this past Wednesday. Politics involves a lot of hot air as it is, so maybe having fans around isn’t such a bad idea after all… especially now that Florida in once again in the white-hot spotlight of national condescension.

John Bartus is a singer/songwriter, City Council member and former Mayor of Marathon, as well as a Chamber Board member and president of the Rotary Club of Marathon. Catch John (and his trusty fan) Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Saturdays at the Key Colony Inn, and next Friday as the featured entertainer at the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce’s Awards Banquet.

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