Roll Call on Tuesday named U.S. Rep. David Jolly the most vulnerable incumbent congressman, a jump from third-most vulnerable ranking in July.
The Belleair Bluff Republican was facing a formidable challenger in former Gov. Charlie Crist in a redrawn district that favors Democrats. And, a spat with the National Republican Congressional Committee over Jolly's bill to ban personal fundraising solicitations from congressional members mean financial help from the NRCC was unlikely.
"Hey, we're number one!" quipped Jolly on Tuesday. "That might be true. But I didn't get in this race because of voter registration figures. That's the difference between me and Charlie Crist."
Replied Crist consultant, Kevin Cate: "Sounds like (Roll Call) agrees with Jolly----"no Republican can win this district."
Jolly said he will rewrite the playbook on how Republicans can win in congressional districts that skew blue as the 13th District now does after a court-ordered redistricting.
The war of words in what promises to be one of the most watched congressional races in the country didn't even wait for the Labor Day holiday to be over with Jollybashing Crist Monday for the former governor's history to GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.
That counterpunch came less than a week after the Crist campaign attempted to tie Jolly to Trump on the night of his Aug. 30 primary victory over retired Marine reserve general Mark Bircher.
That battle continued Tuesday with Jolly's campaign releasing a video continuing the Trump line against Crist.
The Jolly campaign also linked to YouTube video recorded by a Democratic Party tracker (someone assigned to record an opposing candidate's every move) in August 2015. In that video, Jolly says he has a "lot of respect for Donald Trump," but quickly disparages Trump's Make American Great Again slogan, saying the United States is already the greatest country in the world.
Jolly's comments about Trump came before many of the GOP nominee's most controversial statements, including a ban on Muslim immigration. But they also came after Trump's June 2015 campaign debut when he characterized many Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists.
Jolly said Tuesday he wouldn''t campaign with Trump if asked and wouldn't allow Trump to help him beat Crist. And he vowed to keep outlining Crist's 18-year relationship with the New York billionaire.
"I've never met him. Never endorsed him. Charlie is just trying to hide his own history with Trump. He called him a friend," Jolly said. "And for the next eight weeks I'm not going to let voters forget that."