tampabay.com

McCain backs Crist in governor's race

By STEVE BOUSQUET
Published August 8, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - Charlie Crist's campaign for governor has won the endorsement of Arizona Sen. John McCain, who will campaign for Crist in four cities next week, including areas with many veterans.

Crist called McCain's support enormously helpful. McCain called Crist a reformer who's right on the issues.

McCain is a decorated Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war and a likely 2008 Republican presidential candidate. Florida's 27 electoral votes are a highly sought-after prize in any White House run, and McCain's reward for endorsing Crist would likely include Crist's support and fundraising help if Crist becomes governor.

"I admire his independence, I admire his forthrightness," McCain said in a telephone interview. "I also think it's important that he'll carry on in Jeb's tradition."

There has been media speculation that if McCain runs for president in 2008, he would consider Gov. Jeb Bush as a running mate.

McCain, who lived in Orange Park near Jacksonville after his release from a Vietnam POW camp, has stepped up his Florida visits in recent months. He and Crist met recently at a Lincoln Day dinner in Polk County and at a McCain event in Miami.

"I offered to support him some months ago. I think it was an easy call then," McCain said.