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Crist, Rubio Draw Contrasts as Senate Polls Tighten

rubio-cristAs polls this week showed their race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination closing to a statistical tie, Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio took a series of thinly-veiled shots at each other Wednesday during separate speeches to newspaper reporters and editors from across the state.

Speaking first, Crist jabbed Rubio on his hectic campaign schedule, which some political observers credit with helping close earlier wide polling and fundraising gaps. In Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University’s latest poll, Rubio went from 30 points down in August to a statistical tie. He also came within a quarter of a million dollars of Crist’s fundraising in the fourth quarter of 2009.

But Crist said he has not been able to fully engage in the race because of his day job.

"I don't have the luxury of going around this state and politicking all day, nor do I have the desire to do it right now," Crist said during a speech to the Associated Press annual Legislative Planning Day at the Capitol. "I'm going to do my job. I am the governor of Florida, and I am going to fight for the people every day."

And as he said when questions arose last fall about focusing so heavily on out-of-state fundraising, Crist said he was following advice he was given by the last Florida governor to be elected senator.

"I can do it on weekends," he said. "That was the advice Bob Graham gave me and I'm going to heed it. What you’re going to see is this governor work as hard as I possibly can to honor the oath that I took when I got sworn-in as governor…to work every single day for the people of this state, to fight for them, to fight for their jobs.”

Crist ruled out an idea that has been floated by some observers since Rubio has gained momentum: running as an indpendent should he lose the primary a la Connecticut U.S. Joe Lieberman, who left the Democratic Party after losing its primary in 2006, but was re-elected.

Asked, “could you win as an independent,” Crist replied “We'll never know.”

Taking his turn to speak to the assembly of reporters and editors, Rubio framed the race as a fight for the soul of the Republican Party, and of the nation, as he has throughout the conversation. Rubio assailed the Democratic leadership in Washington and said Gov. Crist enabled them to lead the country astray by supporting the federal economic stimulus package.

“I believe if you can hold the growth of government spending constant and couple that with significant reforms to your tax code to provide certainty and a lower rate, you will see the growth in our economy. And that growth in our economy will make government spending a lower percentage of our economy,” Rubio said. “I’m running for the United States Senate because I’m the only candidate in this race who has my view of these things and I certainly believe I’m the only candidate in this race that will go to Washington, D.C., stand up this agenda and offer an alternative.”

Though he has hammered Gov. Crist for supporting the stimulus package, Rubio said it was not hypocritical for him to subsequently say that he would have accepted the federal dollars if he had been governor, as he did last fall.

“I believe that’s a false choice,” Rubio said. “Back last February, this country was having a debate…(about) how do we restart the American economy. At that moment, Gov. Crist, I believe not really fully-informed of what that plan did, decided to endorse it. And I think that was a mistake. I believe the stimulus has been a failure. It has not stimulated job creation in America, in fact unemployment continues to climb here in Florida, but we now owe what we know to be $800 billion according to the latest figures.”

Rubio said Crist’s support of the stimulus – he became one of the few high-profile Republicans to come out in favor of the plan before it was approved by Congress – hurt congressional GOP efforts to rebut President Barack Obama’s push for it. Rubio said there were Republican alternative ideas, mostly involving tax cuts, that would have been better stimulants.

“The choice was not between the stimulus package and nothing,” he said. “My criticism is when Charlie Crist lined up in favor of the stimulus package, he cut the legs out from those Republicans who were working to advocate for an alternative that I believe would have been better for America.”

11 Responses »

  1. Florida needs Charlie Crist.....he is a decent intellegent guy....but Repubes are saying he is too moderate....give me a break......he stands for all the right things....thank God I don't live in Florida any more..red neck city..but when I did I was a huge fan of Crist although I am a progressive........he is just a stand up guy.....how many stand up guys do the Repubes have? NONE! We have Crist and Arnold...they accepted the stimulis...what were they gonna do? reject it like Palin who sold out and did not even finish her governatorable post? NOrth and South Korea Palin....do you know the difference? dumber than a bag of rocks she is!

    • Sari,
      Do us a favor and be quiet for a while, you are not helping Crists cause against the Rubes.

    • Our point EXACTLY... "I was a huge fan of Crist although I am a PROGRESSIVE"...and, I'm not exactly sure what your definition of "standup guy" is, but who would be a couple of examples of standup guys within the Democrat Party? By the way, we don't mind one bit you're not being down here anymore!

  2. Rubio is a great choice. The only choice and has become a national leader in the party, like Scott Brown. We need him. Oh, what a great President he would make.
    Honest, sincere, to the point, and one who knows his principles, his foundation, and stands on them.

  3. I think the reason Rubio is so popular is he isn't part of the "establishment". There's a lot of blow-back on Pols over the state of the nation and both of these candidates are experiencing the effects of that blow-back.

    • That is the thing, Jim, Rubio has been part of the "establishment" for just as long as Crist.

      • After Rubio wins, I am sure you will inform us plebes how Crist actually won, in spite of the vote.

      • I am sorry, did I stutter. Please explain how a man who was speaker of the FL House, one of the most powerful people in the state, from the biggest political machine in the state is somehow an "outsider". If Rubio wins, I will vote for him, but all of you alleged conservatives who keep lapping up all of his BS are just as bad as the drones who followed Obama off the cliff.

  4. Clarification: this is not an endorsment for or against either candidate, but an observation. As a District Chairman for the DREC, I've decided to refrain from publically declaring for a candidate- I will support the winner of the primary wholeheartedly in the General election.

  5. I voted Christ for Governor. This time I will vote for the "blond" guy (Rubio means I think blond in spanish). Christ gets the "Kiss of Death" from Obama and promoted the stimulus. He was wrong and the success of senator Brown in Mass shows that you can be elected on principles.

    Rubio is young attractive and will carry easily the important Cuban an Latino vote..

    I am a Caucasian of Foreign origin . For me Marco Rubio is definitely a new star of American politics. Christ is a nice man a decent governor from the past....