As the primary contest roars to Florida, candidates are escalating their attacks on one another. This is to be expected in any hotly contested election, and as an observer with a preference in the race, I don't generally care to address or dignify attacks against my candidate of choice, who in this case is Mitt Romney.
Except, the Gingrich campaign is now trying to establish a totally false meme that I feel compelled to address and dispel--that Mitt Romney is somehow connected to Charlie Crist because the Romney campaign is allegedly run by Crist hacks.
The ones in the Romney campaign specifically being cited as evidence of this connection to Crist are Stuart Stevens, Andrea Sauls, and Amanda Hennenberg.
Let's put things into perspective: These three operatives were out-of-state hired guns with no real connection or loyalty to what I like to call the CCC (the Crist Circle of Crap).
The CCC include those Florida "Republicans" who devoid of any principles, supported, defended, and enabled Crist in his treachery against conservatism and the Republican Party over the years. They are the Crist cronies who politically and financially benefited from his ascendance to power and his catastrophic control over the Republican party. They were accomplices in his misdeeds. They include, but are not limited to George LeMieux, Eric Eikenberg, Jim Greer, Delmar Johnson, and other such sycophants on the RPOF and/or public dole under Crist. These are the ones who cheered Crist on and in many cases advised him on how to best execute his treachery.
Stevens, Sauls and Hennenberg do not rise (or descend?) anywhere near that level. In fact, as this Miami Herald article explains, Sauls and Hennenberg were merely following orders. I have the sense that these non-Floridians with little or no prior knowledge of the Florida GOP or Crist's treachery accepted a job to work for a campaign that they saw as a good career opportunity--a safe, high-profile campaign flush with money and supported by the establishment, including the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Besides, what young Republican operative would turn down an opportunity to work on a campaign down in sunny Florida?
As for Stevens, he may have been directing the messaging for the backstabber Charlie Crist, but at the end of the day, he too was merely a hired gun. He didn't have a cushy office at the RPOF headquarters; he didn't jet-set with Greer, LeMieux and Crist on taxpayer-funded junkets; he didn't have a RPOF-issued credit card; he didn't benefit from the Crist-supporting Scott Rothsteins of the world; and most importantly, he didn't utilize the RPOF to stack the deck against Rubio or other conservatives like the CCC did.
Instead, he was a non-Floridian beltway type being paid to do a job just like any political consultant. Did he give some bad advice? I believe he did. But did that make him part of the CCC? Absolutely not. He was paid to do what he thought was best for the campaign that hired him and would go on to derive no further tangible benefit whether the backstabber Crist won or lost (unlike the CCC).
In fact, Stevens has worked for many prominent Republican campaigns including Bush/Cheney, Haley Barbour for Governor, Jon Kyl for Senate, John Cornyn for Senate, Chris Christie for Governor, and others. He has also worked for the conservative publication The Weekly Standard and countless private companies.
As far as I know, there are no former Crist for Senate 2010 supporters or staff working for the Romney campaign in Florida. In fact, I don't even think there are any Crist for Governor 2006 supporters in the campaign.
Instead, what we see in the Florida Romney campaign are longtime political adversaries of the backstabber Charlie Crist and his CCC:
Brett Doster who headed the Florida Bush/Cheney presidential race in 2004 is doing the same for the Romney campaign. Doster has a long documented history of opposing Charlie Crist. He ran the Tom Gallagher for Governor primary against Charlie Crist and also ran campaigns of notable anti-Crist candidates, including former Florida Christian Coalition president Dennis Baxley, who is also a longtime Romney supporter. In fact, Doster was referred to as "Public Enemy #1" by CCC ringleader George LeMieux.
Alberto Martinez worked in the Florida House Majority Office under Rubio and was an early Rubio supporter who also worked on the Gallagher campaign against Charlie Crist in 2006. He is now on the Romney campaign.
Both Doster and Martinez were blacklisted and essentially barred from doing any busines or associating with the RPOF and Executive Branch during Crist's tenure.
Key Rubio regional campaign chairs and early supporters Bertica Cabrera Morris of Central-Florida and Nancy McGowan of the Jacksonville area are also a staunch Romney supporters and active in that campaign.
In fact, several Rubio-Romney ties were discussed by Politico last October, which include past and current staffers to both Senator Rubio and the 2008 Romney Campaign.
And let's not forget yours truly. I have waged a well-documented and justified war against the detestable backstabber Charlie Crist since 2006. I exposed Crist every time he threw in with the left, despite his popularity with the party he was undermining. And when Rubio declared his candidacy for US Senate, I was one of the state's earliest and most vocal supporters of that underdog campaign. I stood with him when he barely registered in polls and his campaign lacked the financial resources to even allow him to fly to campaign destinations. I was there and I know who stood with us. I do not need to be lectured by anyone who was absent about who was or was not with Rubio.
Today I am a proud Mitt Romney supporter, as I was in 2008. To suggest that I of all people would jump on any campaign tied to or otherwise friendly to Charlie Crist is laughable.
Gingrich points to his current Florida Director Jose Mallea as proof of some kind of greater Rubio-Gingrich connection. Mallea is a friend and a decent guy who did a fine job on the Rubio campaign after he joined it in February of 2010, but that alone does not qualify as proof of a longstanding Rubio-Gingrich connection, much less an indication of a Crist-Romney connection.
Conversely, does the fact Gingrich hired as a key Florida advisor someone who urged Marco Rubio to drop out mean there's some kind of Crist-Gingrich connection? We can go back and forth all day.
To be fair, I cannot omit that the Gingrich campaign has other supporters and staff with connections to the Rubio campaign. But so does Romney. In fact, many early Rubio supporters, including some who were with us way back in early 2009 when Rubio was polling at 3% against Crist are now Romney supporters, including Tampa activist Stephen Gately, Rubio campaign staffer Genessa Casanova, former Miami-Dade Republican Party Executive Director JC Hernandez who is on staff with the Romney Florida campaign, longtime Palm Beach County Republican activist Bonnie Re, and countless others.
Let's also not forget that the backstabber Charlie Crist endorsed Romney's 2008 opponent John McCain 72 hours before the election. And almost half of the voters polled said that Crist's endorsement of McCain influenced their decision to vote for him. Talk about Romney having an axe to grind against Crist.
So in complete and total fairness, I believe both the Gingrich and Romney campaigns enjoy broad support from the Rubio base. However, it is Newt Gingrich running around the state implying he has a monopoly over the Rubio support base and that this is some sort of proxy war between the backstabber Crist supporters and us Rubio supporters. This is laughable.
Despite his hubris today, Gingrich did not have the courage to risk his political capital like DeMint and other conservatives by supporting Rubio early on when he was a long-shot candidate. To be fair, Romney endorsed Rubio around the same time (a couple of days before?) Gingrich did, just prior to Crist's bolting the GOP.
In fact, responding to all this foolishness from the Gingrich campaign, Rubio himself had to offer the following clarification:
"Mitt Romney is no Charlie Crist. Romney is a conservative, and he was one of the first national Republican leaders to endorse me. He came to Florida, campaigned hard for me and made a real difference in my race."See, even though Romney helped Rubio, he is not making the Rubio vs Crist a wedge issue like Gingrich is. Despite the false impression he's trying to convey today, Gingrich in October 2009 refused to take sides in the Rubio/Crist race when asked in this video, instead heaping praise on both Rubio and Crist.
There is no doubt the 2010 FL GOP Senate Primary was an epic battle between conservatism and progressive Republicanism whose fallout lingers to this day. It is not dissimilar to the landmark 1964 Goldwater-Rockefeller primary for president, which laid the foundation for Reaganism and the modern conservative movement. Unfortunateley, Gingrich was on the wrong side of that one.
I believe Rubio's statement on Romney's assistance during his campaign speaks for itself. Regardless, I urge the Gingrich campaign to drop this, as there are countless early Rubio and Romney supporters who will not be as uncharacteristically kind as I have been in setting the record straight.
***UPDATE 10AM, 1/25/2012***
Marco Rubio scolds Gingrich camp over "innaccurate" and "inflammatory" ad:
Per the Tampa Bay Times:
Sen. Marco Rubio scolded Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign over a Spanish-language radio ad that accuses rival Mitt Romney of being “anti-immigrant”
“This kind of language is more than just unfortunate. It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign,” Rubio told The Miami Herald when asked about the ad.
“The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant,” Rubio said. “Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.”
Rubio’s sharp rebuke comes a day after he subtly corrected Gingrich for comparing Romney to former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, branded by conservatives as a turncoat who left the party before Rubio beat him in 2010.