Vice President Crist? Chances aren't bad

By Adam C. Smith, Times Political Editor
Published February 17, 2008

With all the chatter nationally about Gov. Charlie Crist maybe getting tapped as John McCain's running mate, how could we resist? This week the Buzz debuts our exclusive Charlie Crist Veep-O-Meter, which tracks his vice presidential prospects.

It's way too early in the process for St. Petersburg's first governor to start measuring drapes at Dick Cheney's place, but our Veep-O-Meter starts out bullish since Mike Huckabee no longer serves as an amiable McCain ally against Mitt Romney but more like a pesky pain in McCain's petard.

Meanwhile, there was Crist at McCain's side (again) after the Virginia primary Tuesday, and the next day playing coy to Washington reporters asking about the vice presidential spot.

"I'm focused on being the best governor I can for the citizens of Florida, and that takes up a lion's share of my time," demurred Crist, before Sen. Mel Martinez (not eligible for veep, being a native of Cuba) jumped in. "It's not a job anyone runs for," he said. "Some people run away from it. The bottom line is we know what an attractive political figure the governor is, and that's a good thing for Florida."

Democrats' fundraisers are going at it

Things are getting a tad testy between Barack Obama's top Florida fundraiser, Kirk Wagar of Miami, and Hillary Clinton's top money man, Chris Korge of Miami. Here's a just a snippet of the mass e-mails we saw hurling back and forth last week between the two about whether Florida should be seated at the Democratic convention:

Korge: "While Sen. Obama writes us off as irrelevant and Howard Dean tries to avoid the issue, Hillary has consistently supported the voters of Florida and ... maintained that our delegates should be seated."

Wagar: "Instead of twisting history to salvage your hopes of an ambassadorship, perhaps you should look in the mirror and ask yourself why you didn't lift a finger when many of us were yelling, screaming and cajoling in the fall of 2006 and the first four months of 2007 when this travesty occurred. Beat us on the field you agreed to and stop whining."

For Republicans, schadenfreude is sweet

Republicans are only too happy to watch the Florida Democrats squirm, and were kind enough to send out the holiday greeting above.

Lobbying leigslators is an $85-million industry

New state disclosure reports show that it cost $85-million to lobby the Florida Legislature in 2007, with AT&T topping the lobbying expenditure list at $620,000. Of the counties in the Tampa Bay area, Pasco pays at least $90,000; Hillsborough $75,000; and Pinellas $55,000. Hernando did not employ an outside lobbyist.

Gelber's idea on delegate dispute: Mail it in

Dan Gelber, the state House Democratic leader who played a sizable role in Florida Democrats getting into their mess with a boycotted, delegate-free primary, now offers a solution: a vote by-mail do-over election. So far, there's little interest in the idea from other party leaders, who have estimated it could cost more than $4-million.

"This isn't a good option. It may be the only one," Gelber said of a mail-in primary that would trump the votes of 1.7-millon Democrats who voted in Florida's Jan. 29 primary. "The very worst thing we do is nothing and sort of careen into the convention, where absolute chaos that causes a November loss occurs."

Get to know your super delegate

None of Florida's 210 Democratic delegates at this point are to be seated at the Democratic National Convention, but some party activists are trying to persuade the Democratic National Committee that it must seat Florida's 22 so-called super delegates who could wind up deciding the nominee.

Check out one of them, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, in today's Perspective section, and another, DNC member Janee Murphy of Tampa, today on Political Connections on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Murphy said she won't commit to any candidate until she determines what's best for Florida.

Adam C. Smith and Alex Leary contributed to this week's Buzz.