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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gallagher's Next Move?



Tom Gallagher knew before everybody else just how bleak his latest fund-raising numbers would be ($46K for the month of July). As he ended a meeting with the St. Pete Times editorial board Wednesday, he said: "Raising money has been a little rough lately as you can imagine."

Gallagher still has $3.6-million in the bank. But the evidence of an erosion of financial support, coupled with Gallagher's continuing slide in the polls, have led to speculation of a possible exit. The campaign says Gallagher will keep up the fight, but a key adviser, Tom Slade, told the Times an internal campaign poll this weekend will decide Gallagher's next move, which sounds as if an exit strategy may be under consideration.

"If I were having to make the decision," Slade told the Times' Joni James, "I would be torn between what if lightning strikes Crist before the primary? If I get out, I become Charlie's largest fund-raiser. Is there anything in that for me?" 

One person who probably hopes Gallagher does not fold his tent is his opponent, Attorney General Charlie Crist. If Gallagher were to drop out, Crist's victory by default would have a certain emptiness for his supporters. There would be no suspenseful buildup to the primary, no need for a party on Election Night, no "Crist Coasts to Victory" headlines, and no post-primary "bump" to jump-start the decisive general election phase. On the other hand, Crist could stockpile millions of dollars and start chasing votes from independents and conservative Democrats now, weeks before Democrats choose their nominee. Even speculation about Gallagher's next move is probably another reason for Crist to position himself as a general-election candidate now more than ever.      

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 3:10pm]


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