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 Party’s 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.
“Charlie Crist gets it. Charlie understands what matters in people’s lives,” said the first lady. “He helped save 20,000 teachers jobs and invested more money per student than any other governor in Florida’s history.”
“He will restore funding for the schools so that all of our kids can fulfill their God-given potential no matter where they live or how much money their parents have.”
“You need to step up and get everyone you know to vote for Charlie Crist,” she said at a rally in Orlando.
Scott’s campaign responded to those claims and the FanGate flap Oct. 18 with a new ad, “Fan Face.”
“Charlie Crist lost 832,000 jobs as governor – then he ran away to run for the U.S. Senate. He doesn’t want voters to hear about his record of failure, so he just keeps blowing hot air,” said Jackie Schutz, the deputy communications director for the Scott campaign.
Just as Crist has a huge hug problem that refuses to disappear, his love for a small fan has also become a problem for him in the race that Rasmussen Reports declared a tie Oct. 20 and Real Clear Politics has as a “toss-up” with Crist in the lead by 1 point.
In an obvious move to stop controversy before it starts, CNN announced immediately following FanGate that Crist would not be allowed to have a fan onstage for the candidates’ debate tonight, which is being hosted by CNN and a local Florida TV station.
The CNN memo stated: “There will be no opening and closing statements, no notes, no props and no electronic devices will be allowed on stage. Candidates will be provided water, notepad and pen.”
The Crist campaign team has not commented on the CNN announcement. But this could be a problem for the Democrat, who has used a fan, much like the small fan that caused FanGate, for every appearance he has made behind a podium.
One of those fans played a large role in Crist’s 2006 GOP primary victory that was followed by the November election in which he became Florida’s governor.
Crist had a fan going at his feet during a debate with his opponent Tom Gallagher, who demanded his own fan. The debate was delayed for several minutes, as was last week’s debate with Scott in a clash over the fan rules, while a fan was rounded up for Gallagher.
But he did appear rattled, and Crist won the debate. So began a tradition for Crist. He wants a fan at his feet. The man does not like to sweat.
However, Crist said in a statement issued by his team following FanGate: “On Wednesday night, I stood on the stage at Broward College for five long minutes, waiting for Rick Scott to join me and talk about our different visions for Florida. Trust me — I didn’t want to argue about a fan on the podium.