MADISON -- Stopping for coffee at a gas station along Interstate 10 Saturday morning, independent candidate for U.S. Senate Gov. Charlie Crist bounded out of his campaign bus with a football, a stack of bumper stickers, and a sense of optimism that in many ways defies his Election Day predicament.
Crist is second in the polls, with several pollsters saying Republican Marco Rubio can’t be beaten, has no political party to help organize the campaign’s final three days, and has failed to strike a deal for Democrat U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek to exit the race.
Yet the strain of the campaign isn’t evident on Crist.
On Saturday, Crist’s bus tour “The People’s Express,” first stopped in Madison, a small I-10 outpost that doesn’t see many statewide candidates. A small but boisterous crowd of 30 or so ate up every word Crist said.
When he talked about the stimulus and his support for the federal spending bill, the crowd answered “That’s right,” like they were hearing a Sunday sermon. When he talked about Rubio proposing to raise the eligibility age for Social Security, they shook their heads in disgust.
Gary Harris, a 42-year-old registered Democrat and disable Navy veteran, drove an hour and a half to see Crist. “He’s for the people and that’s what I’m about,” said Harris.
Gigi Auston, a registered Republican from
, bought into Crist’s message of
needing a less partisan tone. “We need a change in the government,” said Auston.
Crist’s bus tour was next scheduled to head to
to meet tailgaters at the Florida-Georgia football game.
But Crist called an audible – he loves using football metaphors. Next stop: Live Oak.