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.
Crist isn't a stand-up man? And he doesn't want to give the Dems ammunition like a photo of himself ensnared in a Bush hug-up? Well, I'm sure Crist just went way up on Karl Rove's enemies list. Truly, what an honour.
Crist has taken a very distructive tack. It's only a day before the election. A photo op could only have served him well amongst the base supporters. I don't know how many will check the Drudge report but the Republicans that do; will now have to hold their nose to vote for Crist. It was a bad move for Crist, it shows lack of conviction, courage and a real sinse of politickee at a time when we need statesman not more Clintonesque pole checkers.
He said pole checkers.
I hope it pans out for Crist, but I'd be amazed if it didn't hurt him instead. I wonder if Bush's feelings are hurt; regardless, he's going to have to really pile up those leper moments to catch up with Kerry.
I wonder if Bush has any feelings, at least any that he can articulate and sound sincere while doing it. Bush has no statesman-like qualities that I can identify (remember when he impulsively decided to give the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, a neck massage?) He's more an anti-statesman--a walking caricature of a Christian.
This reminds me of when Democrats running for Congress did not want to be seen with Clinton. Still, anytime a party member is embarassed to be seen witht the party Chief, the President, it is a big deal. The head of the RNC down plays this, but what else is he to do?