Rubio Would’ve Taken Stimulus Cash
The federal economic stimulus that was trumpeted by Gov. Charlie Crist before it wasn’t - and used by state lawmakers to balance the sagging state budget after they decried it - continued to be a political football for Florida’s major candidates for U.S. Senate.
After months of slamming Crist for supporting the $787 billion plan to stimulate the nation’s economy when it, and the president who pushed for it, were more popular, House Speaker Marco Rubio told a Tampa television station that had he been governor when the stimulus was signed, he would have taken the money too.
Had he been governor in February, Rubio told Tampa NBC affiliate Channel 8 WFLA this week that he would not have appeared with President Barack Obama at a Fort Myers rally as Crist famously, or perhaps infamously to hard-line conservatives, did just before the stimulus plan was approved by Congress.
“If I would’ve been governor, I would have studied that plan before I embraced,” he said in the interview. “That rally was in support of a specific plan.”
But once the plan was approved, Rubio said he would have taken the money.
“Accepting the money is different,” Rubio said. “Ultimately I would have accepting those portions of the money that would not have put Florida in a worse position off in the future than it is right now.”
Crist proposed using $4.7 billion to balance the state budget and proclaimed the stimulus was “fantastic” and “remarkable” in the process.
Rubio’s distinction between supporting the stimulus and accepting the money appeared to be too fine a line to draw for Crist’s campaign, which has watched Rubio gain traction in the state and nationally by turning Crist’s embrace of the stimulus and Obama into a conservative scarlet letter. The governor’s campaign pounced when word of Rubio’s Tampa interview spread, calling it “Rubio’s latest flip-flop.”
"It is incredible that Marco Rubio has based his entire campaign on attacking Charlie Crist for doing exactly what, he now admits, he would have done himself,” Crist campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement highlighting Rubio’s previous denunciations of the stimulus. “Time and again, voters in Florida will begin to see the real Marco Rubio."
Democrats also wasted little time chiming into the stimulus gotcha game. U.S. Senate candidate Kendrick Meek’s campaign said the Miami Democratic congressman was “proud” to have supported the stimulus when it was being debated and still in favor of it now.
“While Rubio and Crist continue playing their petty political games, Kendrick Meek is proud that he supported the recovery plan and is consistently fighting to jumpstart the economy,” Meek’s campaign manager Abe Dyk said in a statement. “Crist was for the stimulus, now he's against it. Rubio was against the stimulus, now he's for it.”
“Kendrick has taken one position,” Dyk continued. “He supports the stimulus and will lead the effort to create jobs and end Florida's foreclosure crisis."
National Democrats too could barely contain their glee over the latest stimulus back and forth among the Republicans vying to replace U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, a Crist confidante who is not expected to seek re-election after being appointed by the governor to serve the remainder of retired Sen. Mel Martinez’ term.
“Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio may not agree on much, but at least they agree consistency does not matter,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Communications Director Eric Schultz said in a statement. “We’ve already seen numerous flip-flops from Crist as he moves to the right, but now we know that Rubio is all too willing to play the same political games. While Crist and Rubio continue their political games, Kendrick Meek has been a consistent and steady advocate for job creation and economic recovery.”
This week’s stimulus scrum was not the first time the plan became a political weapon in the 2010 U.S. Senate race. This summer, Crist was hit from the left by Meek after the U.S. Congressman said Florida was slowly spending its transportation allocation. At the same time, he was hit from the right by Rubio for supporting the stimulus in the first place.
Later in the fall, Crist denied endorsing the stimulus in a national televised interview, drawing howls from Rubio supporters, Democrats and reporters who covered him campaigning for it in the spring.
Perhaps interestingly, this week’s latest stimulus tit-for-tat came against the backdrop of lawmakers completing a special session to approve legislation to increase passenger rail use in Florida in the hopes of attracting money in the stimulus plan for high speed rail.