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Rubio on State GOP Leadership’s Support for Crist: ‘It Sucks’

crist-rubioChallenged by Republican rival Marco Rubio to debate him in the GOP U.S. Senate primary, Gov. Charlie Crist said Friday that he's sure they'll tangle “at the appropriate time.”

But bypassing the opportunity to join Rubio on a panel before newspaper editors from around the state, Crist on Friday left a convention after a luncheon honoring one of his employees with assurances that the two Republican candidates will eventually be able to give voters a side-by-side view of their differing views.


“Some time later,” Crist said before leaving the Florida Society of News Editors at which he presented a Friend of the First Amendment award to his open government director Pat Gleason.

Rubio, the former speaker of the House, also said he believed that he and Crist probably will debate sometime, and then took the opportunity to speak on his own to the gathering of news editors, in which he outlined some of the differences between his politics and the governor's.

“It would have been a great opportunity to talk about the differences between us,” Rubio said about the governor's decision not to speak on a panel discussion that followed the luncheon – (and before going on to discuss those differences without Crist.)

“If it's not today, I'm sure it will be soon,” Rubio said about the prospects for a debate between the two candidates. “I'm waiting. We're ready.”

Democratic Senate candidate Kendrick Meek was also invited to participate but sent a note with regrets, noting that he has to be in Washington for the health care debate in Congress.

Rubio noted his underdog status, and said that he'll have to show up at some of the places Crist doesn't have to if he is to get his message out. He also acknowledged he doesn't have a good chance of matching the governor in fundraising – though he pledged his campaign has a plan to improve its money-raising and will do much better henceforth.

Crist outraised Rubio considerably during the quarter that ended June 30 – and has brought in more than $4 million to Rubio's less than $400,000.

Rubio said he's not naïve and knows he needs to do better raising money to get his message heard, but said he hopes the primary will be about ideas, not just money.

Implicit in a message that he will be the candidate who has principles – many of which he outlined in some level of detail – was a hint that Crist doesn't have strong stands on issues, though Rubio didn't say that directly.

“If we live in a country where all you've got to do is raise a lot of money ... we've got bigger problems than me not winning,” Rubio said. “I hope to live in a country where ideas still matter.”

In addition to having very low name recognition against Crist – who has wide recognition and is popular to boot – and the fundraising disadvantage, Rubio was reminded by a questioner at the forum that he also faces the opposition of his party leadership, which has backed Crist.

“Yeah. It sucks doesn't it?” Rubio responded.

Rubio outlined several policy differences he has with Crist, starting with his opposition to the stimulus package pushed by President Obama. Crist helped Obama campaign for the package – and the Legislature was only able to balance the budget because of it, likely bailing Crist out of the embarassment of a protracted budget impasse like the ones faced by Calfiornia and other states.

Rubio said he opposed it and would oppose a second stimulus because the government simply shouldn't spend money it doesn't have, with rare exceptions – such as being attacked by another country.

Rubio also pointed to Crist's environmental policies, particularly support of “California” energy standards that Rubio said won't solve a global problem.

“I have no interest in America being the cleanest third world economy on the planet,” he said.

Rubio took a middle ground on oil drilling, though, saying he'd like entrepreneurs to solve America's dependence on oil and create a situation where alternatives to oil are the norm.

But, he said, until they do, the country shouldn't take any energy option off the table, including the possibility of near-shore drilling.

Rubio also said he believes in judges who are strict judicial constructionists who apply the law, rather than trying to make policy with it, and that he believes he differs with Crist on judicial philosophy, based on some of Crist's appointments to the Supreme Court, though Rubio didn't elaborate.

The former speaker from Miami – the son of Cuban immigrants – also took the news editors to task, saying that the media should share in the blame for a political culture that has devalued ideas.

“Too often the media covers politics as a sport,” Rubio said. “It's important that we stop participating in politics and covering politics as a sport.”

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