Crist Senses Victory At Hand
An exultant Charlie Crist, sitting with family and friends in a hotel suite, senses victory is at hand. Initial results in Palm Beach County have Crist with 65 percent and Tom Gallagher at 34 percent, according to chief of staff George LeMieux. The aide also said that with 150,000 votes counted statewide, Crist leads Gallagher, 62 percent to 38 percent.
"I feel more confident, yeah," Crist said. "I like the trend."
The candidate is sequestered, amid heavy security, in the Presidential Suite on the Renaissance Vinoy's fifth floor in St. Petersburg. The group of friends and family includes Crist's parents, his sister Catherine and U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Crist said he called all three of his opponents and wished them well. He said he was surprised to get all three of them on the phone on the first try. Crist and Gallagher exchanged small talk about the rain in Miami, where Gallagher was concluding his campaign.
Several hundred Crist supporters are in the ballroom of the Vinoy eagerly awaiting the final results. Hundreds of red, white and blue balloons are suspended from the ceiling. A lectern at the front of the cavernous ballroom awaits Crist's victory speech.
Crist said he did not expect any difficulty uniting Republicans around his candidacy in November, including the social conservatives who have been highly critical of him as a "conservative impostor" who favors gay civil unions, stem cell research and the class size amendment. Asked how he would allay conservatives' concerns, Crist smiled and said: "I doubt that they have any."
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