"#Fangate" Defined Gov. Rick Scott & Charlie Crist's Debate (When It Eventually Happened)

Political debates always have their candid, somewhat earnest moments, whether it's Sarah Palin's "Can I call you Joe?" opener, Vice President Joe Biden's "malarkey" quip to Rep. Paul Ryan, or Bill Clinton walking up to an audience member to give an intimate "I feel your pain" sort of speech. But Wednesday night's gubernatorial debate in Florida got a bit too heated over — oh, the irony — a cooling fan. Florida Gov. Rick Scott refused to get onstage and debate, all because challenger Charlie Crist had a fan by his podium to keep cool.

The highly anticipated Florida gubernatorial debate, which was hosted at Broward College, opened the program with an empty stage on Wednesday. "As you can see, the two candidates invited to take part in this debate, right now, are not stepping up on the stage," the moderator announced, receiving some nervous laughter from the audience. It was a "peculiar situation," the moderator concluded, and it got even stranger as the minutes wore on.

Although former Florida governor and current Democratic challenger Crist finally took the stage, Scott refused to come out and join the fun. The audience "awwed" and booed, and so the moderator had to explain:

Crist has asked to have a fan — a small fan — placed underneath his 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 gentleman, I am being told that Gov. Scott will not join us for this debate.

Cue: close-up of Crist's hotly contested fan.

Scandalous, isn't it? The moderators seemed to think so, too, as the first question they asked Crist — who was still standing alone onstage — is whether or not he felt like he was breaking the alleged "no electronics" debate rule. Crist, however, wasn't too pleased with how this was playing out:

Are we really going to debate about a fan? Or are we going to talk about education, and the environment and the future of our state? I mean, really. There are serious issues facing our state ... I mean, if he's gonna give it to me, I'm going to take it.
TP Clips 8 on YouTube

Scott eventually sucked it up and joined Crist, but it may have been too late. According to The Miami Herald, Scott looked "rattled," and his campaign is now worried this trivial act of political theater may harm him in the polls. The reigning governor is already trailing Crist by a slight margin in this incredibly tight race, according to data from Real Clear Politics.

May the cooler head prevail.

Image: Getty Images, screenshot/Youtube