The people. At once vague and powerful, it's a sentiment that Gov. Charlie Crist hopes will propel his campaign for U.S. Senate.
"The people! It's all about the people! There's nobody else I'm counting on, all I'm counting on is the people," Crist said on April 29, the day he declared he was leaving the Republican Party to run as an independent.
He is not the first politician to adopt populist rhetoric, but few use it as regularly as Crist. To critics, it's a sign of emptiness. To others, it's a reminder of what matters most.
The people — two words that have become, for better or worse, an unshakable part of Crist's identity.
A look through the archives of the St. Petersburg Times and other newspapers reveals a politician gradually mastering the phrase, from when he was known to most readers only as "Charles Crist Jr., a lawyer from St. Petersburg" to today when most Floridians can simply recognize him as Charlie.
Dec. 12, 1991, interview as a candidate for state Senate:
"I've lived in this community almost all my life. I think I have a feel for how people here feel."
Nov. 4, 1992, after winning his first election, to the Florida Senate:
"People are tired of stalemate. We need to do right for Florida. Not what's right for Democrats. Not what's right for Republicans. But what's right for the whole state. The people who elected me yesterday are committed to that, and I certainly am."
Nov. 8, 1994, after winning re-election to the Senate:
"It's very, very gratifying that in this area of public trust, the people have believed us."
Dec. 7, 1996, in a letter to the editor on why scholarships for inmates should not be included in state budget:
"I am convinced that this is the will of the people who, after all, we are supposed to work for."
Oct. 12, 1998, from an article on Crist's bid for U.S. Senate, a race he lost to incumbent Democrat Bob Graham:
"If public servants don't fight for the people, what happens to the little guy? There's nobody to fight for him or her."
Jan. 5, 2001, article on Crist being sworn in as new education commissioner and opening branch office in St. Petersburg:
"It's the people's government, and it ought to be accessible to them and work for them."
August 2002, while campaigning for attorney general:
"I'm running to be the people's lawyer."
Nov. 5, 2002, after winning election as attorney general:
"Let's put the politics behind us and serve the people of Florida."
June 1, 2004, article on settlement related to AT&T's billing of hundreds of thousands of consumers for long-distance services they didn't have:
"It should be the people's choice, the customer's option, not to have products thrust upon them."
Oct. 24, 2006, gubernatorial debate against Democrat Jim Davis:
"I want to be the people's governor.''
Dec. 13, 2006, during inaugural event in Miami:
“I'm going to make mistakes from time to time, but the important thing is to recognize them and understand that we serve the people."
Jan. 2, 2007, speech on day he was inaugurated as governor :
"For if the people cannot understand their government, then power rests with only a few. No longer. Our people will not be disenfranchised by the parlance of bureaucracy. This is the people's government, and clear, plain language will be used to make it open and transparent to all."
Jan. 10, 2007, news conference on why he recalled 283 late-term appointments by predecessor Jeb Bush:
"It's time for a fresh new start. I want to honor the will of the people.”
Jan. 19, 2007, news conference urging Legislature to pass legislation to cut property insurance:
"The people are counting on us."
June 21, 2007:
"Today I am signing the people's tax cut."
June 17, 2008, on why he was dropping long-standing opposition to offshore oil drilling:
"We have to be sympathetic to the pocketbooks of the people of Florida and what they are paying at the pump for gas."
Oct. 28, 2008, after signing executive emergency order extending presidential primary daily voting to 12 hours from eight:
''This is not a political decision. This is a people decision."
Feb. 22, 2009, when asked by David Gregory of Meet the Press to identify a national leader of the GOP:
"The people. The people are the leader of the party.''
March 6, 2010, speech in St. Petersburg:
"They call it the Governor's Mansion, but I call it the People's House because that's what it is literally."
may 2, 2010, When asked on Meet the Press whether, as senator, he would caucus with Republicans or Democrats:
"I'll caucus with the people of Florida."