by Javier ManjarresIt was not long ago that former Governor Charlie Crist was considered “unbeatable” in Florida politics, but even after having been relegating to cutting tv commercials for ambulance chasing law firms after losing his bid for U.S. Senate to Marco Rubio, Crist’s name and legacy will continue to influence state and federal elections here in Florida.
In spite of the loss, Crist has manage to maintain high popularity numbers around the state, and he is even rumored to be mulling over a run for public office in the Tampa Bay area. In an earlier Shark Tank article entitled Rubio vs. Crist Part Deux, we explored the “Crist Factor” in the 2012 Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate, that many believe will strongly influence primary election results.
The unmistakable narrative coming to the forefront of this Senatorial race is which candidate will avoid being tagged as the “Charlie Crist” candidate, who along with his liberal leanings and party betrayal hurt Republicans at the end of the day. During this past week’s AP forum between the 4 GOP Senatorial candidates in St. Petersburg, the candidates tried their darnest to distance themselves from Crist, adding to the already hard “anti-Crist” campaigning that has been evident over the past several months.
“I never supported Charlie Crist in his U.S. Senate race despite a lot of pressure to do that,” stressed state Senate President Mike Haridopolos. The main Republican candidates for U.S. Senate held their first debate Thursday, and it sometimes felt like a game of who could sound most disdainful of the ex-governor.“I went back into private life, and after I went back to private life, he made some decisions to run more to the left. Those were not decisions I agreed with,” said LeMieux
Former state Rep. Adam Hasner boasted that his antagonism to Crist was well known in Tallahassee.–SP Times, Adam C. Smith
Adam Hasner has been blistering former Senator George LeMieux with a barrage of attacks linking him to Governor Crist and regurgitating the now infamous “I’m a Charlie Crist Republican” video clip that will likely run in heavy rotation as the campaign continues in hopes of appealing to the “Marco Rubio’ wing of the Republican Party. Hasner has long been considered as Crist’s proverbial thorn in the side as he was one of Crist’s loudest critics during his term in the Florida House of Representatives.
While it will be hard for LeMieux to run away from his past association with Governor Crist, his close friend and confidant, LeMieux can boast about a pretty good record while in the U.S. Senate, and he has branded himself as the experienced elder statesman that is the logical choice to beat Democrat Bill Nelson in 2012. But LeMieux will also have to try to appeal to Conservatives who are not to happy with his support of High Speed Rail; his support of the Food Safety Bill; and his support of the “Mini-TARP” bill for community banks.
The candidate in the race that reporters said ‘fit right in’ at the debate was retired Colonel Mike McCalister. According to Gary Fineout’s tweet from the debate, McCalister made an interesting statement regarding Senator LeMieux’s close ties to Governor Charlie Crist:
This tweet has caused considerable chatter among conservatives who are now speculating that McCalister is either working with Senator LeMieux or is very naively missing an opportunity to pick up some of those anti-Crist/LeMieux votes by not questioning Senator LeMieux’s past. One particular email even equated the Crist/LeMieux relationship with the 2008 Reverend Jeremiah Wright/Obama relationship, saying that questioning past associations is legitimate and must be discussed.
So while the four candidates made their respective cases to the voting public, the clear winner of the debate was Charlie Crist, as repeated references to the “tanned one” in the debate garnered him more earned media in one night since his campaign for Senate ended last November.