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Politics

Bill Clinton and Other National Democrats Wade Into Florida's Governor Race

April 27, 2014 - 6:00pm

Prominent national Democrats are starting to wade into the Florida waters as the gubernatorial race starts to take center stage.

On Monday, the state Democrats announced that former President Bill Clinton will be heading to Florida in June. Clinton, who carried Florida over Bob Dole in 1996 after losing it to George H.W. Bush in 1992, will be the keynote speaker at this year's Leadership Blue -- formerly the Jefferson-Jackson -- dinner in Hollywood on June 28.

In an email sent Monday, Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant insisted Democrats "needed" to hear Clinton's message as she took aim at Gov. Rick Scott.

"You know how high the stakes are," Tant wrote. "Rick Scott is selling Florida to the highest bidder. He thinks the best way to grow the economy is to give corporations bigger and bigger handouts. The middle class gets squeezed, but guys like Rick Scott dont feel a thing.

"Ive seen what Florida Democrats can achieve, Tant added. With President Clinton on our team, we can defeat tea party Republicans like Rick Scott and elect Democrats who will work to grow the economy from the middle class out -- not from the top down."

Even as his wife -- former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- looks at running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, the former president remains one of the most popular figures in national politics. Clinton offered a well-received speech on behalf of President Barack Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention and spent weeks on the campaign trail. Last month, Clinton went to bat for former state CFO Alex Sink in her unsuccessful bid in a special congressional election for an open seat in Pinellas County.

In the meantime, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott got some help from the Obama political team on Monday. Even as a Mason-Dixon poll released last week showed Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist, who spent most of his political life as a Republican, in a dead heat, the new Democrats team is insisting the polls are meaningless.

On Monday, the Crist camp showcased Democratic strategist Jim Messina, best known for his work guiding President Barack Obamas successful campaigns.

Messina let supporters know he expects the gubernatorial race to be a tight contest.

I'm going to tell you the same thing I said at least once a week during President Obama's 2012 campaign, Messina emailed Crist supporters on Monday. Forget about the polls. One says we're up, another says we're down, a third says we're tied -- that crap is just noise. This race is going to come down to the wire. What will put us over the top is the grassroots organization we build together.

You might see some crazy headlines over the next six months. Don't get distracted by the horse race, Messina added. Just keep your head down and focus on the task at hand: electing a governor who will do the right thing for Floridians. The only thing that matters is how big we build this organization, and how effectively we can turn out the votes for the only poll that counts -- the one on Nov. 4th.

Even as the White House doubled down on Crist, who unveiled the support of possible 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful Gov. Martin OMalley, D-Md., over the weekend, former Florida Democratic Senate Leader Nan Rich turned up the heat on the former Republican, continuing her calls for a debate.

Charlie Crist says he's willing to alienate Broward Democrats by not debating Nan Rich, the Rich team informed supporters on Sunday. Let Charlie Crist know that you expect primary debates!

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com. Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at Allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

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