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Fla. GOP tries to beat Crist before he can run

Associated Press Published: November 18, 2012

Schale believes the Republican strategy might backfire, saying the only people even thinking about the 2014 election are hardcore partisans. Democratic activists who have opposed Crist for years might start thinking he's not so bad if Republicans hate him so much.

"If it does anything at this point, it probably helps Crist with a potential Democratic base who are trying to get their arms around him being a Democrat," said Schale. "If they're beating him up, he can't be that bad."

The point Curry is trying to make is that Democrats shouldn't be fooled into thinking Crist is one of them.

"I haven't heard him disavow his conservative views. I have yet to hear him say that he's a liberal," Curry said. "It's just somehow we have this lifelong conservative with a record of conservatism embracing President Barack Obama and others who are completely opposed to what he said he stood for then."

Asked before the election if he was supporting any Republican candidates this year, Crist replied, "Let me think about that."

As the election ended, Crist immediately took up a popular issue that differentiates him from Scott. And it's one where Republicans can't find quotes from the past that contradict his message. Crist criticized Scott for not extending early voting hours and after the election held a press conference with a Democratic legislator to call for election changes to make it easier to vote.

While people criticize Republicans and Scott for cutting the number of early voting days from 14 to eight, Crist can remind voters that he extended early voting hours four years ago to help alleviate long lines, and he angered his then-fellow Republicans in doing so.

Crist may not be a candidate yet, but he is still getting help making sure his name and face are still in the public eye. Crist's boss, John Morgan of the law firm Morgan & Morgan, has plastered Crist's face on billboards across the state and has featured him in television ads with feel-good messages thanking teachers and urging people to drive safely.

Crist can get the free exposure because he isn't in office and hasn't announced plans to run for one.

"The unbelievable thing is that Morgan and Crist can do this and keep a straight face," said Johnson, who sees the exposure as a way of helping Crist with a future political run. "It's such a blatant suck up. John Morgan and Charlie Crist at this point have nothing they can do for teachers. He might as well just come out and say 'Charlie Crist — he's for Santa.'"

Crist is well aware of the attacks, but shrugs them off.

"You don't let it affect you personally. I know that it's political. If people want to criticize somebody who wants to work with others for the betterment of all, that's sad for them," Crist said. "It really doesn't bother me. That may sound odd — everybody would rather be complimented than castigated, but it really doesn't concern me. I know what I believe and I know how I feel and I feel the duty to communicate it."


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