Mack, Nelson engage in bitter debate

Sen. Nelson faces challenger Mack in Florida's only Senate debate

DAVIE, Fla. - Republican challenger Connie Mack IV accused Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of voting to raise taxes 150 times and casting the deciding vote on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, while Nelson said his challenger is distorting his record.

The candidates met Wednesday night at Nova Southeastern University in Davie for their only debate. Mack immediately criticized Nelson on several issues. Nelson calmly said that everything his opponent said is not true.

"Why is he saying this and why does he say that, when the fact checkers say that's not true?" asked Sen. Nelson.

"What I heard was Nelson running away from his record. He continued the pattern of saying one thing to state of Florida, but he does something completely different in D.C.," said Rep. Mack.

Mack and Nelson also attacked each other on Medicare.

"You know better than that, call it saving, anything you want. Senator you cut $700 billion. That's what you said! You choose president, instead of people of Florida," Mack said.

"I'm not going to let you get away with this. It extended life of Medicare for eight years. Lets talk about his Medicare votes," Nelson said.

They attacked on foreclosures, and they attacked on the fiscal cliff, or sequestration –- but seemed to turn every question into talking points from the campaign.

The gloves didn't come off when the candidates answered questions after the debate.

"He said it was unconscionable, those are his words, to whack away Medicare," Mack told Channel 4's Kent Justice. "Then he casts deciding vote for Obamacare. He did exactly what he said he shouldn't have done. I agree with him! It was unconscionable! He shouldn't have done it."

"And when somebody just rotely repeats a memorized line, like my opponent did, void of details, and answers to questions -– I think Floridians are pretty smart, and they'll see through that. I think the choice was pretty clear," Nelson said.

The debate came as hundreds of thousands have already cast absentee ballots.

The race could have implications on balance of power in the Senate. Republicans need to gain four seats to have a majority. Outside groups supporting both sides have spent millions of dollars trying to influence the race as Nelson seeks his third term.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.