Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio says that if he had been governor, he would have accepted some of the federal stimulus dollars he so often criticizes. Gov. Charlie Crist says that makes Rubio a flip-flopper and a hypocrite.
The flip-flop charge, at least, is suspect.
Rubio has indeed been a staunch critic of President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package, which he contends has done little to create jobs and much to expand the federal government's debt load. But the Miami Republican has never criticized Crist for accepting stimulus money — only for campaigning for it.
"It's one thing to say you'll accept the funds from the federal government. It's another to actively advocate those policies, which I think are disastrous for America," Rubio told the Weekly Standard in May.
Crist appeared with President Barack Obama in Fort Myers in February to campaign for the stimulus money, but last month he drew heat for saying he didn't endorse the bill.
Rubio has been vague when asked whether he would have accepted stimulus money, as every Republican governor did. But this week, in an interview with WFLA-Ch. 8, the former House speaker acknowledged, "Ultimately, I would have accepted those portions of the money that would not have put Florida in a worse position off in the future than it is right now."
The Crist campaign pounced as soon as the comments appeared on The Buzz, the St. Petersburg Times' politics blog.
"It is incredible that Marco Rubio has based his entire campaign on attacking Charlie Crist for doing exactly what, he now admits, he would have done himself,'' said Crist campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "Time and again, voters in Florida will begin to see the real Marco Rubio."
Rubio brushed off the criticism.
"The stimulus was a disaster, and I would have fought it in every way possible," Rubio said. "But once President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Crist mandated their mountain of debt, I have said I would have handled the stimulus money the same way real conservative governors like Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin and Haley Barbour have."
Adam C. Smith can be reached at email@example.com.