(CNN) – Florida Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio is pulling out of what would have been his first debate with Democratic opponent Kendrick Meek, citing the health of his father.
The debate – in which independent candidate and current Florida Gov. Charlie Crist was not scheduled to participate – was set to air on NBC's Meet the Press.
"Unfortunately, the health of Marco's father, Mario Rubio, has significantly deteriorated in the last 48 hours. As a result, Marco plans to stay with his father and family during this time, and will be unable to participate in this Sunday's debate on Meet the Press," said campaign spokesman Alex Burgos.
Rubio's father, Mario, is 83 years old and has emphysema and lung cancer, according to Burgos.
Recent polls suggest Rubio and Crist essentially tied while Meek is running a distant third.