by Nick Stone of Drawnlines Politics.
Governor Charlie Crist may well turn the tide of his senate campaign starting in Broward County. While addressing the Republican Executive Committee Monday night, Crist told the crowd of roughly 300 to “make no mistake, I’m asking for your vote.” He directly acknowledged several friends by name, pointing out their achievements while subtly clarifying his insistence on their support. The governor cited his appointment of local George LeMieux as an example of Crist’s long and deep history with Broward Republicans. He used the occasion in front of his many allies as an opportunity to stand tough on his own record and draw contrast with his main primary opponent.
That contrast was glaring even as the meeting convened. By the time Chairman Chip Lamarca called the Broward Republicans to order, the governor had already shaken nearly every hand in the room. He continued on as the gavel pounded, smiling at passersby who tripped over one another to grasp his hand. Making his way from the far back of the room, the crowd seemed to follow the governor as locals gushed and cameras flashed. Everyone wanted a piece of the governor.
By comparison, last month the patiently waiting Broward Republicans made it through a good amount of official business before candidate Marco Rubio bothered to even show up. Following his juvenile no-show at the Charlotte County REC, the young Rubio paraded into the Broward meeting quite late from another engagement. He completely sidetracked the meeting with his dramatic entrance. Most spectators applauded, some rolled their eyes. After delivering his normal stump speech on “true conservatism,” the senate hopeful departed the meeting as quickly as he swooped in – and in every bit as dramatic a fashion. Several committee members and every camera followed in tow, and the meeting went on without much further fanfare.
Over the past month, the Crist campaign has clearly reassessed its situation as Rubio has significantly closed the distance between itself and the popular governor. Following several months of intense fundraising, the governor shook up his campaign staff and began airing his first radio ads on conservative AM stations around the state last month. Crist clearly realizes that his weak-spot is on the far right. What would otherwise be welcome news for a candidate in a general election could be disasterous for a Republican in a closed primary. The governor isn’t taking his chances, and knows that the time to ignore his opponent has passed.
Months of incoming fire from Rubio has left Crist’s record as a conservative in some question. Already, Governor Crist’s campaign has not-so-subtly reminded Floridians through email correspondence that Rubio has a record to defend as well. Newsweek acknowledges the turning tide, and adds that as Rubio’s leadership comes under scrutiny, opposition researchers will have plenty to work with. The Crist campaign has cited Beth Reinhard’s op-ed in the Miami Herald and quotes from the NRA to question Rubio’s own conservative credentials through the mouths of others. Crist supporter and unofficial campaign surrogate Mike Fasano blasted Rubio in a letter released to reporters where he admonishes Rubio, “It is easy when you are not in office to lob bombs at those who still are, but that my friend, is not statesmanship.”
Monday’s address by the governor was more pointed. The Miami Herald says, the governor portrayed his competitor as “all talk and no action”. Echoing earlier criticisms in front of the St Pete Times editorial board, Crist accused that his opponent voted for tax increases and runs a negative campaign. Gauging the level of support for the governor, The Sun-Sentinel cites a former committee vice chair. Ken Haiko told the paper, “The Broward County committee people I think are pretty firmly behind Charlie Crist.” That will be welcome news for the governor, who has yet to best Rubio in any REC straw poll. Whether or not Crist eventually edges out a victory among Broward’s GOP faithful, many in the party may well look back on this address as the night that the Crist campaign began fighting back in earnest. He probably couldn’t have picked a better place.
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