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Florida’s Senate Candidates Hit Sunday Talk Shows

Gov. Charlie Crist and former House Speaker Marco Rubio were hot tickets for political televisions shows Sunday morning, hitting the national airwaves to talk about their unpredictable race for the U.S. Senate.
Crist appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” dismissing an earlier pledge during a Fox News debate with Rubio when he promised to stay in the Republican primary. Those comments formed the basis of the first question host David Gregory asked Crist.

“What ensued in those 35 days was a lot of listening on my part,” the newly-independent governor replied. “The consistent message that I got over and over and over again was that people were frustrated, they’re tiredof the gridlock, tired of the bickering in Washington, D.C. and that we need a new way.” 
Crist said the people “encouraged me to run independent and get to that November ballot so the people of Florida have a truer choice.” He dismissed the poll numbers that precipitated the independent run, which showedhim trailing Rubio badly in the Republican Primary.
“Those are primary Republican voters,” he said. “It’s very different than the November Republican, or Democrats or independents. What’s happening in our country is unfortunately there’s a lot of primary fear. I see peoplein Washington in the House or the Senate and they’re so concerned about being faced or challenged in a primary that they can’t speak their true sense – their free will. They’re kind of shackled, if you will, by what the primary voters might do. “
The three-way now set up with Rubio and likely Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek will be a choice between his pragmatism and “sort of the big government guy versus the big corporate guy,” Crist said.

“We’ve got candidates in this race, one that’s on the hard right in Speaker Rubio and one that’s on the hard left in Congressman Meek…and then you’ve got a common sense guy right down the middle who wants to represent the people and do what’s right,” Crist said. “It’s not right versus left. It’s right versus wrong.”

Crist also weighed in on off-shore oil drilling, differing with Republicans in the Legislature – including Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos – on the ramifications of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Haridopolos said last week as the 2010 session drew to a close that “tragedy does not support progress,” though he said he and House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon would study the accident this summer.

But Crist said he has already seen enough.

“It’s got to be tabled, for sure,” he said. “When I flew over it on Tuesday and I saw the magnitude of this thing, it was unbelievable. I’ve been here in Pensacola yesterday and again today and it frightens me.”

Crist talked up renewable energy, which he once vocally pushed for before getting involved in the heated Republican primary.

“I think what we’ve have to do is be prepared to handle thing is, do the very best we can, but we’ve got to be prepared for the worst, and that means going as quickly as we can to clean energy and natural gas,” Crist said, telling Gregory that he supported a cap on carbon emissions that has been generally opposed by Republicans. “If this doesn’t make the case that we’ve got to go to clean energy, solar energy, wind energy, nuclear, I don’t know what does.”

Crist had been scheduled to appear on CNN’s “State of the Union” show, but host Candy Crowley said he cancelled the interview.  Now-presumptive Republican nominee Rubio did appear on the show, taking the opportunity to bash Crist for deserting the GOP.

"I don't think it means anything for Republicans in Florida," Rubio said about Crist’s departure. "Our party has never been about an individual. It's been, hopefully, about a set of principles and ideals - the idea of the free market - free enterprise system has made Americans the most prosperous people in the world - that our constitutional republic has made us the freest people in the history of the world. I've always felt that, that belief system finds its natural home in the Republican Party."

Rubio also dismissed assertions that he is too conservative to win a general election, despite his success to date in the Republican primary.

“I think that limited government - conservatism, is what most Americans are,” he said. “I think that's mainstream American thought. I'm not an anarchist. I believe government has an important role to play in society. I just don't think it should play a dominant role. I don't believe government is the most important institution in society.”

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