Bill Clinton in Florida Raising Big Bucks for ... the ARKANSAS Governor Candidate
Around the State
UPDATED: The May 6 Gossip Extra headline read, "EXCLUSIVE -- Bill Clinton Stumping for Charlie Crist Tonight at Lumber Liquidator's Crib!"
Only, he didn't.
The story's third paragraph reads, "Needless to say, Republican-turned-Democrat Crist is in attendance." Well, no. Charlie was nowhere near the lumber liquidator's crib Tuesday night.
Oh, the former president turned up all right, all smiles and ripe for a hug fest, at the posh, $11 million Palm Island mansion of Lumber Liquidators founder Tom Sullivan.
But the Democratic Governors Association event had turned into a shindig principally for Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross, not Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist. That's right, Arkansas.
Speaking to Sunshine State News on the condition of anonymity Thursday, one of the three- or four-dozen attendees at the $5,000-$25,000-a-head event, said, "Most of us didn't mind and didn't care Charlie Crist wasn't there. Most of us just wanted to get our picture taken with a great president, Bill Clinton, and show off our commitment to the party."
How could this happen in Florida, where Obama favorite and party-du-jour-Democrat Charlie Crist would walk a mile for a photo op with a celebrity like Bill Clinton? How did he get so, so snubbed?
There are two reasons, and they're both true.
First, and sorry to be so blunt, President Clinton likes Mike Ross better than he likes Charlie Crist. A lot better.
Clinton didn't need the Republican Party of Florida to remind him that Charlie Crist called for his resignation at the lowest point in his presidency. He remembers, and by all accounts, it still smarts. Besides, Ross and Clinton go back a long way. Clinton, who served nearly 12 years as the governor of Arkansas before heading to the White House, made his feelings known about Ross, a former Democratic congressman from Arkansas, in a campaign email he sent out February on the candidate's behalf.
"When I was running for governor of Arkansas in 1982, a talented and energetic young man named Mike Ross was a big help to me and my campaign," Clinton wrote in the email. "Mike drove me all over the state and I became close friends with him. I even had a hunch that someday he might run for governor himself."
In fact, last Saturday night Clinton was guest of honor at a 500-guest, $250-a-head fundraiser for Ross at the Little Rock Marriott.
The second reason Charlie received an abrupt invitation recall is ... well ... Hillary.
The former first lady and maybe-2016 Democratic presidential candidate is a big Nan fan. Has been for 25 years. She and Nan Rich go back almost as far as Bill and Mike Ross go.
About two weeks ago, Nan joined Hillary Clinton in Washington to celebrate the 25th anniversary of HIPPY USA. In 1985, Nan spearheaded the pilot project for HIPPY in Florida -- Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-School Youngsters -- and soon after, Hillary and Bill Clinton launched the program in Arkansas.
"You know, they didn't even have mandatory kindergarten in Arkansas at the time and we were bringing in pre-K," Nan told me during a 2013 interview.
When I asked Thursday if the Clintons were supporting her, Nan was guarded. "I doubt President Clinton would endorse anybody in the primary, but I really believe he and Hillary know where I stand, what I can do and are on my side."
Though sources close to the Rich campaign quoted a conversation between Nan and Hillary to me and Gossip Extra, as reported in a Thursday GE follow-up story ("EXCLUSIVE — Charlie Crist Disinvited From Bill Clinton Party by Hillary!"), Nan has assured me the conversation never happened.
"I don't know where any of you got that," Nan told me in a phone call Saturday morning. "It never happened. I never told Hillary, 'I think I can win if only your husband would stop supporting Charlie Crist.' Why would I say that? Bill Clinton doesn't, and hasn't supported Charlie."
Nevertheless, Charlie knew the fix was in and he was out. Tuesday night, tanned and ready to rumble, he was left scrambling to find a camera to love him.
On Thursday, Democrats outside the slightly amused Nan Rich camp apparently didn't have a public word to share about this story. Not the Charlie Crist people, not the DGA in Washington, and especially not the Florida Democratic Party, which has two press people, Josh Karp and Max Steele. I called both twice -- and neither returned my call.
On the other hand, Tuesday night's shutout at the hands of the Clintons should serve as a good lesson in loyalty for Charlie:
You have Bill, loyal to a 20-year-old kid who dropped everything to drive him around the state 32 years ago; you have Hillary, loyal to a friend she admired and to whom she was grateful, who would go on to serve as the first woman minority leader in the Florida Senate.
Charlie Crist isn't getting it all his way.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to include Nan Rich's conversation with Sunshine State News on Saturday, in which she categorically denies the conversation between herself and Hillary Clinton reported here previously.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.