A weird thing happened in Florida today: Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist refused to appear with President Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush at a huge rally in Pensacola.
The Crist campaign is spinning this as a strategic decision to campaign in more competitive parts of the state than the solidly Republican panhandle, but he was scheduled to introduce Bush at the event in material released by the White House. Karl Rove is openly treating this like a snub:
On a tarmac in Texas where the president boarded Air Force One for the trip east, Bush political strategist Karl Rove mockingly questioned what kind of alternate rally Crist could put together that would rival the expected 10,000-person crowd that Bush was expected to draw at the Pensacola Civic Center.
The White House already had distributed schedules saying Crist would introduce Bush at the rally.
The Palm Beach Post quotes an unnamed Crist advisor who said the White House was insistent that Crist attend, but he rejected them anyway.
As of yesterday, only one Republican running statewide in Florida would commit to attending the rally:
Of the five GOP candidates for statewide office in Florida, only one - Senate candidate Katherine Harris - definitely planned to appear with Bush, while three - Charlie Crist, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, and attorney general candidate Bill McCollum - definitely won't attend the Panhandle rally.
Chief financial officer candidate Tom Lee had not decided as of Sunday afternoon, a spokesman said.
Crist, the state's attorney general since 2003, is Jeb Bush's hand-picked successor and has a 6-10 percent lead over Democratic candidate Jim Davis, according to all but one recent poll.
If his campaign thinks it's too risky to be associated with President Bush on the day before the election, the race must be a lot closer than those polls.