Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist is hitching his wagon to President Barack Obama in a bid to solidify support within the Democratic Party and convince voters of his party credentials.
Crist, who was Florida's GOP governor from 2007 to 2011, decided not to seek re-election in 2010 so he could run for U.S. Senate. He lost in the primary to Marco Rubio, and again in the general election after he ran as an independent.
Crist went on to support Obama's 2012 presidential bid and is now running for the Sunshine State's highest office as a Democrat. Opponents have used his party changes to paint him as a political opportunist, an obstacle Crist is trying to overcome, in part by drawing on links to the president.
He is currently leading Republican Gov. Rick Scott by a slim 43 percent-41 percent margin according to a survey
conducted by Public Policy Polling.
For his current campaign against Scott, Crist has assembled a team led by several top former Obama advisers, and hopes both to demonstrate his credibility to Democrats and also to replicate Obama's successes in the purple state during both his presidential campaigns, The Washington Post reports
"The off-year elections are different from the presidential elections, but I think what the governor has done is he has brought together a dream team of talent to figure out how to put together a coalition to win the governor's race," Crist spokesman Kevin Cate, a former Obama campaign aide, told the Post.
Crist has also hired
Jim Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager, and Ted Goff, who ran Obama's digital campaign strategy. Other Obama veterans recruited to the Crist team include pollster John Anzalone, media strategist Jim Margolis and former state director Steven Schale, the Post reports.
Scott is one of the nation's most vulnerable governors facing reelection this year. However he is known for being a strong campaigner and fundraiser and the new poll shows he has pulled back 10 percentage points on Crist since a similar poll in October.
It is also possible that Crist's association with Obama could backfire, given the president's low approval ratings in the state on the back of the troubled Obamacare roll-out, the Post notes.
"I almost want to offer a mass for the Obama advisers coming to work or Crist," Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist, told the Post. "They're going to need all the divine intervention they can get. Going from advising Obama to advising Crist is such a steep drop, I hope they are taking vertigo medication."
The race is expected to be among the most expensive and intense governor's races in the country, the Post reports.
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