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Charlie Crist to House Democrats: 'I think we're gonna do it'

Published Apr. 11, 2014

Is Charlie Crist paying too much attention to polls?

For somebody who expects to face an opponent with $100 million, he didn't sound worried about his chances in the governor's race in a Thursday night stump speech to a small but influential group: the House Democratic caucus.

"We're almost there. We're almost home," Crist said. "It's going to be good because I think we're gonna do it. And I think they know it."

All candidates have to project confidence and an ability to win -- especially Crist, a recent convert to the Democratic Party who still faces skeptics in the ranks of his adopted party. But his speech to about 40 caucus members was devoid of the usual stuff: Don't underestimate our opponent. This is a tough race. If we don't go all out, we'll lose.

On the contrary, he all but predicted victory in November. He realizes how hungry Democrats are for victory after losing the past four elections for governor. Speaking to a racially diverse group, he emphasized his support for President Barack Obama -- "Obamacare is great. I will not back down from that" -- and reminded them of his 2008 executive order extending early voting before the presidential vote that delivered Florida to Obama.

He recalled a phone call from former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham after Obama won Florida a second time in 2012: "'It's going blue,'" Crist quoted Graham as saying. "'I didn't think it would happen as quickly as it has.'"

Crist announced that he's renting an apartment on Fort Lauderdale beach for the campaign. It's a symbolic gesture intended to show his commitment to ensure a high voter turnout in Broward, the state's strongest Democratic county but one with a recent track record of underperforming in statewide elections.

On issue after issue, Crist savaged Gov. Rick Scott's record: abortion rights, voting rights, restoration of civil rights, expansion of Medicaid and support for education. The former Republican governor portrayed the Republican Legislature as extremists: "I can't believe some of the stuff they do over there," he said, pointing to the Capitol a few blocks away.

Crist's appearance to House Democrats was at the Adams Street headquarters of the Florida Education Association, the teacher union that's an important cog in the Democratic ground game in statewide elections. "They're running out of time," Crist said of Republicans. "We've got to stay focused ... We're all in this together."