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Crist was unaware of Obama's Florida itinerary

TALLAHASSEE — It was a bizarre Tuesday for Charlie Crist.

Florida's governor said he didn't know where President Barack Obama was in his state Monday. And he laughed off a report suggesting he might be "America's worst governor."

Crist, who to the disdain of conservatives warmly embraced Obama in Fort Myers eight months ago, said he wasn't aware the commander in chief was visiting U.S. troops in Jacksonville on Monday.

"Where was he yesterday?" Crist asked reporters. Told he was in Jacksonville, Crist said: "First I've known of that." Asked whether his communications staff might offhandedly mention the president's in town, Crist said: "If they want to."

Crist said he didn't join the president at a solar energy event in Arcadia on Tuesday because, "I've got a Cabinet meeting, so I've got to do my official duties first and foremost."

But Obama's February visit touting stimulus funding conflicted with a Cabinet meeting, too. It was postponed to accommodate Crist's attendance.

On Monday, columnist Reihan Salam began a story on Crist by calling the governor "an extraordinarily gifted politician." But things went downhill from there, as the writer called Crist's heavy reliance on stimulus money to balance the state budget a "fiscal nightmare" and said Crist might be "America's worst governor."

What does Crist think of a piece labeling him a "lightweight"?

"I only weigh 165, so that's true," he said. "They have a right to say whatever they want. The First Amendment says so."

Any concern that such criticism could hurt his U.S. Senate campaign against Republican rival Marco Rubio? "No," Crist said.

That wasn't all: The Washington Post's political blog the Fix is running a highly unscientific poll that nominates Crist as one of six choices for the nation's "most overrated" governor. So far, Crist is running slightly behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the "honor," based on more than 8,000 votes.

Earlier Tuesday, Crist rejected the idea of a "public option" health care plan and refused to be pinned down on whether Florida should take advantage of a proposed opt-out provision for states.

Reminded that through Citizens Property Insurance Corp., he favored a government takeover of Florida's private property insurance market, Crist said: "It is and it isn't." Citizens has created more competition in the private market, he said, and rates have dropped by 16 percent on average, and "we've been blessed by not having any hurricanes the last three years."

Questioned on the public option subject a second time, Crist said: "I would prefer that it didn't pass on public option. I don't support it."

Times/Herald staff writer Shannon Colavecchio contributed to this report.

Crist was unaware of Obama's Florida itinerary 10/27/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 11:12pm]
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