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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The incredible, shrinking Charlie Crist campaign

23

January

It may not be readily apparent if you follow the Florida media that constantly notes Charlie Crist's campaign for governor or the Washington pundits who describe Charlie Crist vs. Rick Scott as THE race to watch in 2014. But here's the reality: There is no real Crist campaign for governor.

Sure, he announced a couple days ago that Barack Obama campaign manager Jim Messina is on board, and Obama's digital director, Teddy Goff, has signed on too. Obamaworld has opened up a bunch of Democratic fundraising doors from Hollywood and beyond.

But it's been nearly three months since Crist officially announced his candidacy and at least 10 since everyone knew he was preparing to do just that. Where the rubber meets the road: there is for all purposes no Charlie Crist campaign except for a fundraising operation that so far appears fine but hardly daunting.

Crist Campaign headquarters? Coming soon. Campaign manager?  Coming soon. Halfway decent Web site? Coming soon. Press operation? Coming soon. Grass roots organizing? Who knows. Weekly announcements of Florida County leadership teams? Dream on.

It seems Team Crist, which largely consists of Charlie and Carole Crist, John Morgan, and a maybe a few Obama campaign alums, pressed the re-set button soon after his so-so campaign kickoff in downtown St Petersburg.

The fellow who had been more or less leading the campaign, veteran Democratic strategist Steve Schale, has significantly scaled back his involvement in the campaign though he insists he never wanted a big, daily role in the campaign and is still helping Crist on "special projects" such as his book roll out.

Team Crist jetissoned their campaign manager, Bill Hyers, just before he formally started, as well as Crist's "body man" and deputy fundraising chief, Michael Hoffman. Crist has long been known to rely mainly on his own political gut and a skeleton crew of paid staff. But that political gut has been suspect at best since he decided to give up the governor's mansion in 2010 and run for U.S. Senate in the 2010 tea party wave.

Now, Charlie Crist is a Democrat, and his state party shows nearly as little pulse as his own campaign. State Party Chairwoman Allison Tant, who campaigned for the post promising to be a terrific money-raiser, so far appears to be a lousy fundraiser. If she and the state party are effective at much else, such as registering voters or an effectove communications shop, we haven't seen it yet.

It's only January! That's what team Crist says, and it's true. But let's face it: Most everybody in Florida politics expected Charlie Crist to run for governor as a Democrat at least six months ago. It's hard to explain how at this point he could still be putting together a campaign staff.

[Last modified: Friday, January 24, 2014 1:18pm]

    

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