A fired-up Charlie Crist charmed a hometown crowd in St. Petersburg Saturday, and made it abundantly clear we'll be hearing a lot about Marco Rubio's state GOP credit card spending in the coming months.
Credit card statements from 2007 show Rubio charged $134.75 at a tony Miami barber shop.
Standing on the deck at the Ovation condominium, Gov. Crist happily called his longtime barber, Carl Troup, to his side.
"My opponent for about a year has been running around Florida, buzzing all over the place, telling everybody what a fiscal conservative he is. But what you need to know is the truth. It's just not the truth. The guy got a credit card from the Republican Party of Florida, and he charged a haircut for $135. Unbelievable. I get my hair cut from this guy for 11 bucks," Crist said, putting an arm around Troup and then taking off a shiny loafer and raising it in the air.
"These shoes that I'm wearing? I've had them about eight years. I just get them resoled. I'm cheap. Carole will tell you," he said to roars. "Don't you want somebody in office you can trust, that is frugal, that is careful with your money and will watch the treasury cautiously? That's what I'll give you and the other guy won't. He's full of baloney."
Rubio's campaign spokesman Alex Burgos responded: "Floridians know they can't trust Charlie Crist to be frugal with their taxpayer dollars. Again and again, Charlie Crist has squandered taxpayer dollars on everything from the $787 billion stimulus, to a shady U.S. Sugar bailout, to his lavish European junket which cost taxpayers over $400,000."
$135 buys what?
Rubio has said little about the GOP credit cards, except that he had paid for about $16,000 in personal expenses and would reimburse the party another $3,000 for eight plane trips. But on a South Florida radio station last week, he was pressed about the barbershop charge and stressed that it was not for a haircut.
"That's not what that was. That was a bunch of other stuff that was for a silent auction and all of that," Rubio said. "We paid for that out of my own pocket, we were just charged there on the charge card, but you've got to come back and pay for it at the end of the month."
We still don't know why Rubio didn't use his own credit card or what was purchased. For the record, $135 at that men's barber shop, Churchill's would buy not just a deluxe cut ($25), but also a pedicure, and back and eyebrow waxing.
Obama fans revving up the grass roots
A lot of hard-core President Barack Obama fans and activists have been quietly grumbling about the lack of focus they've seen from his grass roots political operation, Organizing for America.
But the network now is holding grass roots strategy sessions across Florida and the country, and it looks like the machine — including about a dozen full-time organizers in Florida — is about to shift from nebulous policy advocacy to more direct political activity.
"The core point of these strategy sessions is to talk to our volunteers — the people that are out in their communities every day talking with their neighbors, friends and family — to get their input for where they want to take OFA in 2010," said Florida director Ashley Walker. "But we already know from the thousands of one-on-one conversations we've had with our volunteers that people came into this movement through the electoral process and they want to support the president by electing people that support his agenda for change."
LeMieux on a Crist run as independent
With Charlie Crist lagging in recent polls by double digits, the chatter is everywhere that he might run as an independent, rather than face Marco Rubio in a GOP primary. Nonsense, says the guy who ran Crist's last campaign.
"He's a Republican, he's always been a Republican, he's got a great record as a Republican. I think those are the kinds of rumors that get spread around in a campaign, maybe sometimes by the other side," Sen. George LeMieux says in a Political Connections interview airing today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. "It always amazes me how much Charlie Crist is underestimated by his opponents and by the news media."
Adam Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.