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Politics

Rubio and Meek Camps Continue to Fire Away at Charlie Crist

September 28, 2010 - 6:00pm

Gov. Charlie Crist, running for the U.S. Senate without party affiliation, continues to be hammered from both sides by Republican Marco Rubio, the front-runner in the race, and Democratic candidate U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek.

For the moment, the Rubio and Meek camps are ignoring each other and, while this is a three-way contest, the fight for the Senate seat often appears to be two separate battles: Rubio vs. Crist and Meek vs. Crist.

Polls show Crist trailing Rubio by double digits and that Meek is catching up to the governor. Crist needs to win Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents if he hopes to catch Rubio.

Meeks strategy against Crist is reminiscent of the Democratic primary contest this summer when Meek tangled with billionaire investor Jeff Greene for the nomination. Meek presented himself as the real Democrat in the race and bested Greene, who had run for Congress as a Republican back in the 1980s, in the primary.

Meek and the Florida Democratic Party unveiled a new commercial Wednesday morning trying to keep their base from bleeding over to Crist. The ad hammers the governor for his past support of conservatives and Republican candidates, including Sarah Palin and George W. Bush.

The Meek team and the Rubio camp ganged up on the governor Wednesday morning for a comment that Crist made on MSNBC on Tuesday night, arguing it shows the governor, who left the GOP earlier in the year, has no principles

MSNBCs Lawrence ODonnell asked Crist if there were any positions he would have changed now that he is no longer a Republican, and the governor answered, No, not really.

"Charlie Crist told a national television audience that he wouldn't take back any stance he took as a lifelong conservative Republican, said Adam Sharon, a spokesman for Meek. He doesn't regret cheering on Sarah Palin as she told a Florida crowd, 'Drill, Baby, Drill!' and supporting drilling just 3 miles off Florida beaches. He doesn't regret standing on stage with George W. Bush as he campaigned for privatizing Social Security. And he doesn't regret standing with big developers and corporate special interests while Florida's economy took a nosedive.

The Rubio camp also commented on the interview.

Charlie Crist just cant keep his stories straight, said Rubio's spokesman Alex Burgos Wednesday morning. One day hes a fire-breathing liberal and the next hes a hard-core conservative. If he still has all the same Republican positions as he told MSNBC last night, does that mean he still favors complete repeal of Obamacare, opposes Justice Sotomayor and wants to keep the ban on gay adoption?

No matter the case, the bottom line remains the same that Charlie Crist will say and do anything to win an election, even if that means contradicting himself and misleading Florida voters, added Burgos.

With Meek continuing to campaign with nationally recognized Democrats, including an appearance in Tampa with former presidential candidate and Vice President Al Gore in Tampa on Thursday, Crist also has been bringing out endorsements from prominent Democrats.

Over the weekend, former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler endorsed Crist. On Tuesday, former Florida Democratic Party Chair Charles Whitehead, who headed up the party in the 1980s and returned to lead it in the late 1990s, announced he was backing Crist.

I am supporting Governor Crist because he chose to follow his personal convictions over that of a party ideology that is becoming increasingly out of touch with the issues that most Floridians face in their everyday life, said Whitehead. What Governor Crist is trying to accomplish by running as an independent takes real courage, and that is what we need in America today. That is why I am proud today to endorse Governor Charlie Crist for the United States Senate.

Whiteheads announcement came from Panama City -- whose mayor Scott Clemons, whose name was being kicked around as a potential running mate for Democratic gubernatorial nominee state CFO Alex Sink, is also backing Crist.

I am honored by the support of Mr. Whitehead, Mayor Clemons, Congressman Wexler, and Democrats across Florida who are putting aside partisanship in the name of whats right for the people of Florida, said Crist. If were going to put Florida back on the road to prosperity, we need a United States senator who will fight for people, not party bosses and special interests. I am the only candidate in this race offering that kind of independent leadership.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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