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Nancy Smith

Unity Tour All Show, No Go

August 29, 2014 - 6:00pm

Democrats who were saying a lot of ugly things about each other less than a week ago are suddenly hugging it out on a theatrical kumbaya tour.

And kissing it out.

And throwing the crowds strings of promises like beads from a New Orleans balcony.

To the uninitiated, the Democrats' Unity Tour is part Mardi Gras parade, part cheerleader competition, part old-fashioned tent revival. And about as believable as the 12 Labors of Hercules.

If there was the tiniest tinkle of truth in the Thursday "tour," it was in the party's desperate need to win The Big One in November. The aura of frenzy was real enough. Charlie Crist is no less than all of the eggs in the Florida Democratic Party basket.

But the rest of the road show -- from the "People's Team" banner that borrowed from Crist's Morgan & Morgan billboard logo to the warm and fuzzy speeches about Nan Rich's "class" -- what a load of rubbish.

Crist, having either condescendingly blessed her heart or pretended she didn't exist before Tuesday, on Thursday called Rich a class act.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, who was instrumental in getting Emily's List to deny Rich support, called her my courageous friend.

And Florida Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant, whose goons ridiculed and threatened high-profile Democrats who supported Rich, said of her, Her heart is strong, praised her courage, her valor, and called her a true hero.

I sure hope they passed out the "people's barf bags."

As it happens, Crist got it right, Nan Rich is a classy person. She could have pulled a Bill McCollum, ignored Crist as McCollum did Rick Scott when he lost to the governor in the 2010 Republican primary. God knows, she had a right. But she got into the race to defeat Scott -- and now she can't but Crist can. If you've studied Rich at all, you know she couldn't do anything else but hold her nose and throw her support behind Crist.

Interesting that Rich's husband, who knows better than anybody else what she's been through for two years, apparently didn't want her to go on the unity tour. She told the Sun Sentinel newspapershe learned after the fact that her husband David retweeted this comment: Why Nan Rich Supporters Will Never Support Charlie Crist, with a link to a Leslie Wimes opinion piece. The column appeared on Wimes' Women on the Move website and in Sunshine State News.

Look for some of Rich's campaign supporters to go down that other road with David.

I have to wonder if any of you saw the "unity" performance live in Orlando or Fort Lauderdale? If you followed the lead-up to the primary and watched the on-stage goings-on, you just knew a lot of the people on hand -- not all, but a lot, including some of the A-list Dems -- were attending under duress. You just knew the party goon squad had been out twisting arms.

Large on hoopla, light on content, the tour fitCharlie Crist like a glove. It was everything he loves about politics. Be honest, who do you know who can pass off platitudes as promises and get away with it quite as skillfully as the always affable former Republican governor?

You don't like the way education is going in Florida? The environment? Want the high-speed train deal back? "Vote for me!" exclaims Crist, arms extended to the faithful. He never explained how. But, then, he never does. He ended his address with, "In 68 days you, me, and Florida are going to be Scott free!"

Everybody on stage was smiling. Smiles were pasted on, they never disappeared. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, smiling. Bill Nelson, smiling. Annette Taddeo, Geri Thompson, Allison Tant -- all smiling. Good gracious, just watching made my mouth hurt.

This tour was meant to convince Democrats their leaders trust Charlie Crist and so should they. But I'm not so sure it did the trick. I think it may have been too soon after the party's badly conducted efforts to manipulate Rich out of the race. I think bad feelings linger among some Democrats toward their leaders, and that some of these voters -- I'm not sure how many -- still believe Crist has been shoved down their throats.

The governor's race is in a statistical dead heat, or was before Tuesday. We'll find out after Labor Day as polls resume how much unity the unity tour produced. My guess is, "the people's team" might need a few more people on the team than they thought.


Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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