Bill Clinton in Florida Raising Big Bucks for ... the ARKANSAS Governor Candidate

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: May 10, 2014 11:30 AM
Bill Clinton and Mike Ross

Bill Clinton and Mike Ross

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.

His invitation was rescinded. Revoked. Repossessed like a pickup in a payday loan gone bad.

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.

Nan Rich and Hillary Clinton

Nan Rich and Hillary Clinton, April 2014

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."

Clinton Fundraiser Venue in Miami

Bill Clinton fundraiser venue

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 or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments (10)

1:57AM MAY 12TH 2014
Nan can win this election. It's gonna be an uphill battle, but she has been around a long time, fighting for Democratic principles that Charlie doesn't even have. Nan is not an illegitimate candidate... she runs a grassroots campaign. Cameras and money can only get you so far. I believe she will be our next governor, and I'm saddened by all these so called Democrats who are selling out for a big name.
7:24PM MAY 12TH 2014
Nice rightwing truthiness try . . . . your very language recuses you . . .
8:55PM MAY 9TH 2014
Ohhhh, I'm sure Charlie's soooo intimidated by SSN News and its . . . . shall we just say . . . . "faux" continued support for Nan Rich's candidacy . . . . and I'm just SURE clearly "Democratic" leaning SSN will support Nan Rich if she becomes the Democratic gubernatorial candidate against the rightwing's lovable Governor Rich Scott . . . . so, who is SSN attempting to kid with their truthiness attempts . . . . . no one's that gullible, it appears, which makes this continued faux support just more SSN politics of the "Big Lie" and sadly. . . .

Pathetic . . . .
11:26AM MAY 11TH 2014
Gee . . . . only the day after I commented, Nancy Smith had to revise this story to retract some of that journalistic truthiness she so rapidly gobbled up as fact . . . . . good for her . . . yet still, in the first place, so . . . .

Pathetic . . . . .
7:17PM MAY 9TH 2014
I suppose it's too bad for Mr. Crist that he didn't get any fundraising help from Mr. Clinton, but, considering their history, no surprise, huh? But look at the bright side - it's great that they're hosting fundraisers for politicians from other states IN FLORIDA! (We thank you for your business!)
Nan Governor
5:42PM MAY 9TH 2014
Nan is the only governor guaranteeing President Hillary Clinton win in 2016- Crist will betray Hillary and Clintons know it
Loki Luck III
1:05PM MAY 9TH 2014
Broward Bob
11:18AM MAY 9TH 2014
Charlie will have it all his way in August and November. Sorry Nan groupies, he will win the primary by 40-50 points.
3:28PM MAY 9TH 2014
Miami-Dade Mary
11:36AM MAY 9TH 2014
Then that's too bad for Florida

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