It's one of the main arguments that Rick Scott and the Florida GOP are making against likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist: When Florida's economy tanked and residents needed his leadership most, Crist bailed to run for the U.S. Senate. "He didn't stay to fix the mess. He ran away," says a TV ad slamming Crist as a "slick politician, lousy governor."
History may show that Crist's decision not to seek a second term as governor was the dumbest political decision he ever made, but in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9, Crist makes no apologies for that decision and has no regrets about it.
"The reality is we needed somebody in Washington who was civil and who would do the right thing for Florida and America," Crist said, noting how he promoted civility and bipartisanship in Tallahassee as governor.
Crist, who opened up his first real campaign office in Tampa Bay on Saturday (the 2300 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg), also said he is not worried about recent polls showing he's in a neck-and-neck race with the Republican governor. Scott is the one who should be worried," Crist said.
"Polls have moved and they're going to move — that's just the nature of the industry — but I don't think they're moving that much. And honestly if I were him and I had spent now almost $15 million on TV, about $10 million on Internet and personnel . . . and not see things move more than they have, I'd be pretty frustrated," said Crist, who also discusses the new book featuring his former close friend and Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer attacking him as an opportunist and liar. "The ranting of a desperate guy," is how Crist described it.
Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Gauging '16 matchups
It's almost certain that either Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio will run for president in 2016. Maybe they both will. But should they?
A new poll shows that just 35 percent of Florida voters think former Gov. Bush should run vs. 50 percent who think he should not. Only 27 percent think Sen. Rubio should, with 59 percent opposed to a bid.
The Public Policy Polling survey found that Florida Republicans found Rubio a stronger candidate based on strength with voters who consider themselves "very conservative."
"This may presage what could happen to Bush if he runs in 2016," a polling memo reads. "He may do better in earlier primaries with a packed field than he does once people start dropping out and creating a more clear ideological contrast."
In a hypothetical matchup in Florida with Hillary Clinton, Bush runs almost even with the Democrat 46 percent to 45 percent. Clinton does slightly better against Rubio, 48-44.
Of course, any poll this early — Bush, Rubio, Clinton and many others will make decisions by early next year — should be taken with some entertainment value. They are snapshots in time. PPP is a Democratic-aligned firm but has had generally solid results.
Nelson on Cantor
"The radicals won," Sen. Bill Nelson declared when asked about House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's epic defeat Tuesday in Virginia.
"That's not what our politics needs," the Florida Democrat said of the Cantor slayer, college economics professor David Brat. "This is just another indication of the Republican Party being so split apart. It will probably take another couple election cycles for this to all sort itself out."
Echoing others, Nelson said Cantor's loss could have a chilling effect among Republicans in Washington. "It pretty well kills immigration reform over in the House."
The anti-establishment wing of the GOP looks next to Mississippi, where Sen. Thad Cochran is in a June 24 runoff election with Chris McDaniel, who is backed by the tea party.
"He's a good senator," Nelson said of Cochran. "I'd hate to see an extremist take him out. It's another example of what happened to Dick Lugar." Pointing to the Senate floor, he added: "It emboldens the extremists in there."
Scott request denied
Gov. Scott's campaign declined requests to appear on Central Florida News 13 in Orlando but tried to get the governor on the station's sister channel, InfoMas, to talk about Hispanic outreach. InfoMas agreed but informed Scott the interview would be done by Ybeth Bruzual, a Channel 13 reporter, and it would be shared across Bright House Networks, including Bay News 9.
"The campaign responded to us saying the only way they would do the interview is if it was conducted by a reporter of their choice and that the topic covered would only be Hispanic outreach," Bruzual said live on air, shaming Scott in a key part of the state. "Our management agreed that it would set a dangerous precedent to accede to such conditions and declined the campaign's request."