Only one candidate running for the U.S. Senate truly has the experience to hit the ground running in Washington, but few people are paying any attention to him.
Meet Sarasota Republican Bob Smith, a former U.S. senator from New Hampshire and true-blue conservative, who is finding it mighty hard to get any traction amid all the attention on front-runner Charlie Crist and challenger Marco Rubio. He appears today on Political Connections on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
"When this campaign's over (Floridians) are going to know who the conservative is, and it's going to be Bob Smith, not Marco Rubio," said Smith, suggesting that House Speaker Rubio did not practice what he preaches when it comes to spending and illegal immigration.
Smith, who moved to Sarasota after losing a 2002 GOP primary to John Sununu after two terms, might be taken more seriously if he had raised more than $20,000 to date. And his two terms in the Senate might be more impressive if one didn't realize that winning a statewide race in New Hampshire is akin to winning a countywide race in Pinellas or Hillsborough.
Rush likes Rubio
Palm Beach resident Rush Limbaugh, who has been saying positive things about Rubio lately, took notice of Crist's comments to the St. Petersburg Times editorial board last week.
"I noticed that Crist is out there now, 'Hey, what do you mean? Who says I'm not conservative? I'm pro-life. I'm pro-gun. I don't know what more I have to be except angry.' That's not going to sit well," Limbaugh said. "Republicans, the only chance they ever have of winning national elections is to go conservative. And I think that's what's brewing out there, and the Republican Party is going to be looking at this Crist-Rubio primary because it's going to be a pretty stark contrast."
Gov. Crist acknowledged last week that it may not look like he's 100 percent focused on Florida when he's spending so much time raising money out of state for his Senate race. "One of the things I like the least about what I do is having to raise money. … I also realize that I have to have resources in order to communicate and in order to educate. I don't enjoy going to receptions a lot, but I know I have to do it," Crist said. "Does it look bad? Perhaps. But I know if I don't do it, I'm not going to be able to communicate when it really matters."
Crist said he consulted former Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, who also raised money for a Senate race while serving as governor, about fundraising.
"(Graham) said, 'It's very difficult, and you have to try to be very sensitive to the out-of-state fundraising vs. in-state. Your first job is your job.' I realize that. He said, 'My advice would be if you do out-of-state fundraising, do it before the election year. If there are people around the country who want to help you' — and thank God there are a few — 'I would try to schedule those before the calendar year ends in 2009.' So I'm trying to do that. I think it was good advice."
Sen. George LeMieux said he long wondered how disgraced lawyer Scott Rothstein was so successful but never acted on it because he's not "the kind of person to try to pull down others."
"I've talked to him and know him," said LeMieux, who ran a competing law firm. The mega-fundraiser is accused of bilking investors out of millions of dollars. "I never understood how he was so successful, but I wasn't the kind of person to try to pull down others. I just hope for the best and was always optimistic about him as I am about everybody and thought there must be some other way he is making his money."
LeMieux, who provided Rothstein with two tickets to his September swearing-in ceremony, did not think the scandal would hurt Crist, a friend of Rothstein's and major beneficiary of his money-raising. "The people of Florida know their governor, and they like their governor, and they know he fights for them every day. I think ultimately that's going to shape their opinion."
Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith gives political updates on Twitter at adamsmithtimes and can be reached at [email protected]