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By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political Editor
Published January 27, 2008
With his surprise, last-minute endorsement of John McCain Saturday night in St. Petersburg, Charlie Crist accomplished something besides giving a huge boost to McCain and getting himself all over the national media.
Crist also seriously overshadowed the Pinellas Lincoln Day dinner's keynote speaker, state House Speaker Marco Rubio.
The Miami Republican was good-natured about it. "I saw all those satellite trucks and thought, man, my speech is going to get a lot of coverage," he quipped in a ballroom with almost no reporters left to hear him.
Big questions and tall answers
Mitt Romney was squired through Pinellas Saturday morning by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker. Buzz asked Romney if Baker was on Romney's vice presidential short list, and Romney didn't miss a beat.
"No, he's on my tall list," Romney said of the 6-foot-7 mayor.
Show stretches to one hour
If you're a political junkie, you won't want to miss today's special one-hour Political Connections on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Guests: Mitt Romney, John McCain, state House Speaker Marco Rubio, GOP chairman Jim Greer and state Democratic chairwoman Karen Thurman.
Missed Democratic opportunity?
Greer: "What I think is going to have a residual benefit to the Republican nominee and the Republican Party for years to come is the fact that Democrats running for the highest office in the land, the presidency, signed a pledge that they would not come to Florida and talk about the issues that are important to voters in this state," Greer said in a taped Political Connections interview to air Sunday on Bay News 9.
"Our Founding Fathers would roll over in the graves if they had ever heard of such a thing."
Asked why any Florida voter in November should support a Democratic nominee who snubbed the state in the primary, state Democratic chairwoman Thurman couldn't muster much of an answer. She said - inaccurately - that the Republicans hadn't spent much time campaigning in Florida until recently anyway.
Dismissing a question
Earlier in the week, leading Florida Democrats held a news conference on their efforts to persuade the candidates to go ahead and campaign in Florida for two days after South Carolina's primary Saturday. A reporter noted that Greer had suggested any Democrat who broke the pledge not to campaign in Florida would face questions about his or her character.
"Shall I use another one of my southernisms?" replied Chief Financial OfficerAlex Sink. "That's B.S."
Millions flow into Amendment 1 fight
Crist's Vote Yes on 1 campaign raised $1.2-million in the past two weeks, putting its total collection at $4.1-million. Big donors, aside from Florida Power & Light, include the Florida Chamber of Commerce ($100,000); the Villages ($25,000); George LeMieux's law firm Gunster Yoakley & Stewart ($25,000); and Miami Dolphin's owner Wayne Huizenga ($20,000).
Florida Is Our Home, the main opposition group, closed out the reporting period with $182,000 and has now raised just over $1-million. The total does not include access to the Democratic Party's voter database, an in-kind contribution valued at $40,000.
The Florida League of Cities has dumped about $800,000 into defeating the effort, and the firefighters union has devoted $107,000. Half the Yes on 1 money comes from two sources: the Realtors and Florida Power & Light. Crist wanted to raise much more.
The soft response from other typical donors illustrates unease with the tax package, valued at $9.3-billion over five years.
[Last modified January 26, 2008, 23:49:26]