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Crist and Rubio trade flip-flopping barbs

Pot, meet kettle. Gov. Charlie Crist — the fellow who endorsed and campaigned for President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package before denouncing the spending and denying his stimulus endorsement — wants to take down U.S. Senate rival Marco Rubio by casting him as a flip-flopper.

Crist's campaign has launched a Web ad accusing the former House speaker of changing positions on cap-and-trade energy policy. On Friday, the governor practically taunted Rubio for having said that, while he opposed the stimulus package, he would have accepted stimulus money as governor once it passed.

"It's remarkable," Crist said. "One thing comes out of his mouth and another thing is his record. It's hard to have any confidence in what he says anymore."

Crist suggested it may be reason enough not to debate Rubio: "I don't know if it would be worthwhile because I can't have any confidence in what he might say," Crist said.

The Rubio campaign responded, more or less, that Rubio's rubber and Crist is glue: "Charlie Crist has repeatedly proven he can't be trusted to tell the truth about his own record, so Floridians shouldn't expect him to tell the truth about Marco Rubio," said Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos. "Whether it's endorsing President Obama's stimulus and then denying he did or raising taxes and then claiming he's anti-tax, Charlie Crist changes positions as easily as a chameleon changes its colors."

Keeping a distance?

One interesting dynamic to watch in the GOP primary for attorney general: Do the two candidates connected to Charlie Crist administration — Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former Agency for Health Care Administration secretary Holly Benson — try to distance themselves at all from the governor who has antagonized some conservatives?

"(As) lieutenant governor, you don't have the luxury of having your own agenda and, frankly, most of the time your own opinion,'' Kottkamp said in a Political Connections interview airing today, when asked about the governor's support for making it easier for ex-felons to regain their civil rights. "It wouldn't be a priority, I'll tell you that."

Kottkamp did defend Crist's controversial decision to endorse the Democrats' stimulus package.

"His mission was not to endorse it. His mission as governor was to say, "What can I do when we're facing a 10 percent budget reduction? How can I make sure we don't have less children getting health care or less people getting cared for in nursing homes?" Kottkamp said. "And as governor, he had to look beyond politics."

The interview airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Bay News 9.

Straddling on stimulus

The Buzz caught up with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele in Tampa last week. For someone who had previously suggested he would be open to punishing Republican senators who backed the stimulus package, Steele was strikingly sympathetic with Charlie Crist's campaigning for its passage.

"People need to understand, being governor is not as simple as right or left or up or down,'' Steele said. "It's leadership, and it takes a lot of hard work and you've got to balance a lot of things. I think Charlie Crist has spoken to the people of Florida about that and they get to judge it."

Janet Zink contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com and followed on Twitter at adamsmithtimes.

Winner

of the week

Jeff Atwater. The prognosis looked iffy at first, but the Republican Florida Senate president and chief financial officer candidate managed some finesse and head-banging to overwhelmingly pass a package of passenger rail projects. And Democrats can't even find a semicredible candidate to challenge him for the open CFO slot.

Loser(s)

of the week

Paula Dockery and Marco Rubio. A bad week for anti-establishment, insurgent statewide candidates. Dockery lost big on what was supposed to be her launching pad issue, opposing the SunRail deal. And Rubio — befitting a candidate no longer dismissed as a fanciful longshot — faced a slew of headlines questioning whether he's just another doubletalker when it comes to his stance on cap-and-trade, accepting stimulus money, and SunRail.

Crist and Rubio trade flip-flopping barbs 12/12/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 12, 2009 8:42pm]
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