Charlie Crist Still Trying to Shake Obama's Hug

Image: Charlie Crist Still Trying to Shake Obama's Hug Gov. Charlie Crist is hugged by President Barack Obama during a Town Hall event on Feb. 10, 2009 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Tuesday, 26 Aug 2014 07:29 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Florida Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist is trying to energize the Obama campaign machine to help him defeat incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott, The Washington Post reported.

With the race a statistical tie, the likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee is toiling for every vote. In 2012, President Barack Obama carried the state by less than 1 percentage point over Mitt Romney.

After Crist was photographed hugging Obama at a February 2009 event to promote the administration's economic stimulus package, his career as a Republican was effectively torpedoed. Crist has made hugging part of his campaign style, The Wall Street Journal  reported.

Crist's term as Florida governor ended in 2011. In 2010, he campaigned for the U.S. Senate as a Republican. After Marco Rubio, the tea party-aligned Republican, led him in the polls for the Senate race, Crist switched his party affiliation to an independent, but still lost to Rubio in the general election. He became a Democrat in 2012. He is now counting on Obama campaign veterans to rally behind him and mobilize the Democratic base.

One indication whether Crist is making sufficient inroads among such Democrats will be how well he does in Tuesday's primary against former state Sen. Nan Rich. She accuses him of turning "almost 180 degrees on issues that people would consider to be a core value of the Democratic Party," the Post reported.

Vote Now: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance?

If Crist overcomes Rich as expected, he says he will exploit Democrats' ability to get their core supporters to the polls just as the Obama campaign did.

Scott told the Post, "At the end, it's going to be who has the best grass roots, and can we get our message out. We've got to have a better ground game than our opponents."

Like Rich, the GOP is reminding Democratic voters that Crist has changed positions. Republicans have made 2 million automated phone calls playing recordings of Crist speaking as a Republican against abortion and same-sex marriage and for toleration of religious symbols in the public square. Democrats have complained to the Florida Elections Commission that the tactic is misleading and illegal, the Post reported.

Crist is an extroverted and skilled politician who has spent about $50 million on the race. Scott, a former businessman, is more reserved and has spent about $100 million in what is likely to become the most expensive political contest in the country, the Post reported.

Scott is hoping that Florida's economic recovery, in which 700,000 jobs have come on stream since December 2010, will draw support from appreciative voters, the Post reported.

Crist's party switch continues to color the campaign. Brian Ballard, who previously raised money for Crist and now raises money for Scott said, "It's weird. It's uncomfortable. It's 'Twilight Zone' stuff," the Post reported.

Vote Now: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama's Job Performance?

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