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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Reporter's notebook: Rubio vs. Crist



It's been pitched as both a battle for the soul of the Republican Party and a desperate attempt by a state lawmaker to stay relevant. Whatever the case, the rift between House Speaker Marco Rubio and Gov. Charlie Crist is the talk of Tallahassee. Here are more thoughts:

"Our conservative compass seems to be lost," said Rep. Frank Attkisson, R-Kissimmee, who supported Tom Gallagher in the GOP primary. "I think (Rubio) has treaded water as long as he can. I think you see him saying 'Where in the world is the conservative? Is there an empty suit in the governor's office.?' "

"The volume has been turned up but I'm not sure it really has had any impact," said Rep. Jack Seiler, D-Wilton Manors. "I think (Rubio) is trying to position himself as the heir-apparent to Jeb Bush but I don't know if that's a recipe for success right now. ... The governor is popular and remains popular."

"Marco may think he's running for governor now. I doubt two months after he leaves the speakership he will," said Sen. Steve Geller, D-Cooper City. "He is trying to lead the party to the right. That's bad public policy but it is better for Democrats. The more extreme he makes the party, the more he cedes the center to us."

"He's a talented young conservative and obviously has a bright future," said former Senate President Tom Lee, R-Brandon. "I'm sure he's using this to communicate his political ideology. But I don't believe it's contrived. These are his core principles."

Aubrey Jewett, UCF political science professor: "It's possible Crist could get a challenge from the right in a primary. Right now I wouldn't bet on it. If I were him, I'd be a little concerned but he's got plenty of time to mend fences."

Dario Moreno, FIU professor and friend of Rubio: "Usually House speakers are not that well known. They tend to operate in obscurity. Marco Rubio has really flexed the muscle of the speakership. ... I don't think there's a chance in hell Marco will run against Crist. But I do think he's trying to define himself as a conservative against a background of Crist's moderation. Politics is about defining yourself."

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 2:09pm]


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