Crist-Obama: The Hug That Keeps on Giving Campaigns Ad Material

President Obama and then Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, when the latter was a Republican, did hug. It wasn’t that much of a hug. But they did hug. There is no denying it.

Yet it wasn’t the really awkward hug that he gave Jay Carney when the former press secretary ended his last press conference at the White House.

It absolutely was not the bear hug Obama received from the owner of a pizza restaurant in Florida in September 2012, who lifted the chief executive off his feet.

And it certainly was far less than the emotional hug Obama received (but he did have to ask for) from Special Olympian Tim Harris.

“Presidents need some encouragement sometimes too,” Obama noted. “That felt really good. Thank you, Tim.”

The Obama-Crist hug was not a real hug. It was more of the right-hand shake, left hand pat once or twice on the back, chest brush without a bump, hug that is meant to show more solidarity and camaraderie than just a handshake, but much less emotion than a real hug.

However, the Republican Party of Florida wants to make sure that voters don’t forget it, at least not before they cast a ballot in the state’s gubernatorial election Nov. 4.

That’s why the GOP has done what Sen. Mark Rubio’s (R-Fla.) campaign team did in 2010. They are making the Obama-Crist hug a campaign issue.

The Republican Party of Florida has released a new TV ad, “On The Ballot.” The GOP thinks it will be especially effective because (1) Obama proclaimed that he and his policies would be on the ballot this fall and (2) a GOP press release notes those words are ones “that must have been music to Charlie Crist’s ears. After all, Charlie loves Barack Obama and has fully embraced the Obama playbook.”

“He thinks Obamacare is great, raised taxes by $2.2 billion as governor and won’t rule out doing it again. Make no mistake: a vote for Charlie Crist is a vote for the Obama playbook.

The former governor of Florida, also a former Republican, has dealt with “the hug” before.

Democrat Charlie Crist talked about the hug heard ‘round the Sunshine State before a February 2014 book signing for The Partys Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.

He said that hug had a lot to do with why he left the GOP. And Crist said he only hugged Obama in 2009 in response to the president’s $787 billion economic stimulus plan.

“Some of my former Republican friends took issue with that, which I really didn’t understand because I think it is important to treat people well and be kind to each other, especially when that ‘other’ is the president of the United States of America.”

It turned out to be the hug that has never ended for Crist. Video and photos of the hug resurfaced later that year in a Club for Growth ad that criticized Crist for claiming he never actually endorsed Obama’s financial stimulus program.

Rubio used the Obama hug against Crist when he defeated the Republican who would turn Democrat for a Senate seat in the 2010 GOP primary.

All these years later, this is even a worse time to be cast as a friend of President Obama in most states in the nation, especially Florida.

The Real Clear Politics average of all polls show just 40.5 percent of voting age Floridians approve of the president’s performance in office, while a whopping 54.8 percent disapprove, for a deficit of 14.3 percent.

So, Obama has stayed away from Crist’s effort to oust Gov. Rick Scott.

However, Michelle Obama campaigned for Crist in two rallies in Florida on Oct. 17.