(CNN) – It was 'Three's Company' in the final Florida Senate debate as Republican candidate Marco Rubio, Democratic candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek and independent candidate, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, met in Orlando one week before the election.
The dominant issues in the debate, which was moderated by NBC Meet the Press anchor David Gregory, were the housing crisis and a rousing conversation about the future of Social Security.
On the collapse of the housing market, the candidates attacked the shady lending practices and lack of oversight which they said led to the housing bubble.
Rubio blamed policies which made it "cheaper to get ahold of bad loans," and derided temporary mortgage modification programs which he said have not worked. Meek advocated for more accountability, especially for mortgage lenders and loan officers in charge of modifications. Crist spoke of the need to "reduce the tax burden," and touted the success of programs such as the $8,000 first time homebuyer tax credit.
There were no definitive answers to the question of how to fix the Social Security program. The candidates quibbled over whether to raise the retirement age– something Rubio has said might be an option but Crist and Meek both oppose– a pertinent issue in a state where a large percentage of the population relies on Social Security as their primary source of income.
"We can't move the goal posts for those who are planning on retirement when it comes to social security." Meek said of the suggestion. Crist agreed that he would not look to raising the retirement age, and talked about his platform to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who would eventually pay into the system.
Rubio attacked Crist's platform and defended his own position saying, "We should make no changes to the program for current beneficiaries."
As they have throughout the campaign season, Rubio and Crist spent several minutes squabbling over Crist's decision to run as an independent. Crist fought hard to defend his switch from Republican to independent as something other than political expediency.
He said of his opponents, "They're rigid they have to stay where they are because the party bosses tell them to." "I am liberated, I am free."
Rubio shot back at one point "He switched cause he couldn't win the primary."
Meek stayed above the fray for much of the debate, touting his Democratic voting record and criticizing the Bush administration. But Meek sniped during Crist's answer regarding his decision to change his position on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
"When I hear flip flops in the hallway I think it's the governor walking down the hall," Meek said.
The candidates were conservative in their answers to a question regarding the timeline for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. Meek said that if the deadline to withdraw troops by July of 2011 was not met, the United States "should challenge the world community to put in their resources," to help. Rubio said that while he supported the president's surge strategy, he did not agree with an open ended timeline.
In a recent CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll of likely voters, 46 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for Rubio, while 32 percent said they would vote for Crist and 20 percent would support Meek. The survey had a sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.