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Finding Crist: the auspicious beginnings of Charlie Crist’s controversial candidacy

Former Florida governor launches campaign to be re-elected, this time as a Democrat

Photo: Photos by Billy Manes, License: N/A

Photos by Billy Manes

Photo: , License: N/A

(In fairness, Susan Smith says she “will vote for the nominee, but I won’t be able to work for him.”)

We speak a little bit about Crist’s past problems with key Democratic social issues like abortion (he remains pro-life, but doesn’t want to force his agenda on anyone) and LGBT issues. Crist campaigned in 2008 for the anti-gay marriage Amendment 2, for instance, drawing recent published ire from Florida GLBT Democratic Caucus legislative director Michael Rajner. Last month at the statewide Democratic conference, Poe says, Crist sat down with Rajner for a long talk on the issue, wherein Crist went beyond saying that he had simply evolved on the issue, to saying that he now has the “courage” to be on the right side of it. Crist followed the meeting by recording a video supporting a number of LGBT issues, including marriage. (On Nov. 5, Crist tweeted his support of a bipartisan nondiscrimination bill introduced by gay state Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando, saying he’d sign it.)

Poe pulls out his phone to show me the first of the promised Republican attack ads. It’s a pretty weak collection of campaign character judgments by other Democrats on Charlie over the years: Senate opponent Kendrick Meek, Al Gore (“a flop-flipper,” is Gore’s assessment), former Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman.

“A lot of this boils down to petty jealousy and hurt feelings and those kinds of things,” says Poe. “I think the Republicans are handling this pretty badly.”

The Republicans and Rick Scott have promised another $100 million campaign to rival the 2010 gubernatorial stakes. Most of that, says Poe, will be spent smearing Crist, because Scott’s record and polling aren’t bragging material. In September, Republicans hinted that some of that money could be used to sabotage the primary – fund Nan Rich’s primary campaign as a means of either avoiding a race with or getting back at their ex-husband Charlie Crist. Rich indicated to the Miami Herald, “I’ll take all the help I can get so I can then beat Rick Scott in the general election.”

As of Sept. 30, Rich’s campaign only had $63,000 in the bank after more than a year out; she recently demanded 10 primary debates to cover the media markets she won’t be able to buy into. Conversely, the Crist campaign is expecting to raise $50 million.

Everybody is a little antsy about the morning’s festivities. Jessica Clark’s just gotten back from the staging of the event. She reports that the porta-potties had to be moved from behind the stage, you know, lest Crist be photographed next to toilets as he announces – some comparison to Mitt Romney landing in front of Donald Trump’s plane is drawn. I try to get a better idea of what to expect from the festivities on this “Crist-mas Eve” (big laughs), but no one’s talking seriously anymore.

“I’ve arranged to have Barack skydive in,” Poe says.

“So, Madonna’s singing?” I ask.


At 8 a.m. on Monday, my phone rings. It’s Bob Poe.

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