Backroom Briefing: Charlie Crist Shows He Cares
Around the State
On the surface, former Gov. Charlie Crist's meeting with teachers this week at the LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library was about education.
But it was also an opportunity, and perhaps an intentional one, for observers to recognize the difference between the likable and almost naturally charismatic Crist and his Republican opponent, Gov. Rick Scott. Call it the empathy gap -- an almost Clintonesque ability of Crist to project that he feels the pain of those he's speaking to.
In fact, Crist himself laid out the difference (in more partisan terms) when he tried to relate to the teachers' complaints about their pay by pointing out that he didn't make much in his first job out of law school.
"So I understand, and I have compassion and empathy and respect," he said. "You deserve to be respected. And it's kind of that simple. And they're not respecting you. (Rick Scott) is not respecting you. I'm just going to call a thing a thing. Rick Scott doesn't treat you right. And I'm sorry for that."
Crist also trotted out an empathetic line that he's been honing over the last several weeks: Unlike the wealthy Scott, Crist suggests he knows what it's like to struggle to make ends meet. The former governor tweaked things a bit to account for GOP criticisms that he's currently doing pretty well financially as a lawyer at Morgan & Morgan.
A recent campaign filing put Crist's net worth at almost $1.3 million.
"I, most of my life, have lived paycheck to paycheck," he said. "Now, lately, it's gotten better for me. So it's not quite like that anymore. But that's only been the past three years. Before that, it was paycheck to paycheck. So I get it. I have walked in your shoes."
Before sitting down to address the teachers, Crist stopped to shake hands and speak with each of them. During the event, he was quick to throw out relevant personal stories, from a teacher who helped boost Crist's self-esteem to the time a plane he was flying in almost crashed shortly before the 2006 election.
It was a contrast to Scott, who now seems at ease in shaking hands with supporters at campaign stops but can seem almost robotic when speaking in front of groups. The anecdotes that Scott relates often seem preprogrammed.
It's not clear that empathy alone is enough to get Crist back into his old job. But given the former governor's cheery nature and the fact that Scott's personal favorability ratings remain mixed at best, it's not something Crist is likely to drop.
YINKA ADESHINA'S MONEY:
A handful of reporters and political observers spent Wednesday afternoon on Twitter exchanging messages about the interesting campaign-finance reports filed by Yinka Adeshina, a little-known Republican candidate for governor who reports to have raised $182,080.
But the windfall has some interesting sources. One of the donors is Goodluck Jonathan, who apparently merely shares the name of the president of Nigeria, given that his address is a post-office box in Tallahassee. At least 37 of her donations have come from people living at "4100 Wicham," though 28 of them were at that address in Fort Lauderdale and nine of them were at that address in Melbourne.
Adeshina has asked for matching funds, but those aren't distributed until about a month before the primary election, and the Florida Division of Elections would have to verify the contributions before it can match them.
JUST LIKE OLD TIMES:
Some political attacks never go out of style. Or at least that's the way it seems in the already-nasty governor's race.
The Florida Democratic Party came out this week with an ominous ad tying Scott to $1.7 billion in fines that the governor's former company, Columbia/HCA, had to pay because of allegations of Medicare fraud. Voters who might just be tuning in saw the same types of attacks during the 2010 campaign.
"A troubling past. And now Rick Scott is our governor,'' a voice on the Democratic ad intones.
Of course, it only took a couple of hours after the ad was emailed to reporters before Republicans fired back. The GOP attacked Crist for his past ties to two prominent felons -- former state Republican Chairman Jim Greer and South Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein, who was sent to prison for a massive Ponzi scheme.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: "Just met with the incoming Speaker of the Florida House, @SteveCrisafulli – a fantastic guy! He will be a truly great leader." -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump).