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Inconceivable: Florida’s media’s view on Charlie Crist vs. Kendrick Meek vs. Marco Rubio or why Adam Smith isn’t always right

in Peter/Statewide by

Two weeks ago, I posted a story about the ongoing negotiations between New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s advisors and Charlie Crist’s campaign about Hizzoner possibly endorsing the People’s Governor.  The story quickly went viral, making its way to Politico and the Washington Post, as well as the St. Petersburg Times, which dismissed the story out-of-hand based on the quote of Bloomberg advisor Howard Wolfson:

After a St. Petersburg blogger reported a likely endorsement, we asked Deputy New York Mayor Howard Wolfson about the rumor. “False,” Wolfson said. The chances of Bloomberg helping Crist down the road? “Zero.” “Mayor Bloomberg was very disappointed that Gov. Crist vetoed an excellent education bill and has no intention of endorsing him,” Wolfson said, referring to SB 6, the controversial teacher merit pay bill that Crist shot down.

Now, I’m not going to argue about the veracity of that quote.  The Times‘ Adam Smith is a hell of a better reporter than I am. Of course, I am not even a reporter.  In fact, there were several whispers around the Crist campaign that I broke the story in an attempt to sabotage any deal that had been developing between Bloomberg and Crist, just as I had broken the story about Florida’s teachers preparing to spend $1 million in television ads for the Governor.

No, I broke the story about Bloomberg and Crist — and I stand by that story for a variety of reasons — because it is what it was: an intriguing development in the most exciting campaign of the midterm elections.

And just because Adam Smith, et al, don’t believe Bloomberg’s people were talking to Charlie Crist’s people doesn’t make it not true.

Because if you look at the full narrative of the race between Charlie Crist, Kendrick Meek and Marco Rubio, this story is going nothing like what the mainstream media predicted.

I’ll give credit where credit is due: Adam Smith, the St. Petersburg Times, Miami Herald and the rest of Florida’s Fourth Estate are wonderful at PolitiFacting and at uncovering some of the corruption which plagues the state’s political system or any other form of journalism that looks back instead of forward — but they have no clue about what’s going to happen next.

It may be best to think of Florida’s political reporters as modern-day Vizzini’s, the character from the movie The Princess Bride who finds it, again and again, inconceivable, that what is happening is actually happening.

A year ago, it was inconceivable that upstart former Speaker of the House Marco Rubio could out-raise and out-organize incumbenet Governor Charlie Crist in the race for the U.S. Senate.

As a matter of fact, there is hardly a mention of then-Senator Mel Martinez stepping down early from his seat in the U.S. Senate.  Most of Florida’s media were unaware of Martinez’s intentions until the moment the press release hit their desks.

So, to Florida’s mainstream media, it was inconceivable that Rubio would win a string of all-important straw polls among GOP activists.  Just as it was inconceivable that Crist would lose the support of his home county.

The idea of Crist actually losing to Rubio was absolutely inconceivable to Florida’s political reporters and editors.  As late as January 31, five months after I started writing about the threat Rubio represented to Crist, the St. Petersburg Times‘ Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens was writing that “Charlie Crist may yet be the Comeback Kid”:

The Republican primary for Senate has turned into a real contest, and Crist has mostly himself to blame. But the governor found his mojo last week, and unfortunately for Rubio the primary election is not in February. It’s in August. And it’s way too early to conclude an incumbent governor from Tampa Bay who has run statewide four times is going to be upset by a former House speaker from South Florida who has never run a statewide campaign.

It could happen, but I wouldn’t bet the ranch.

To Nickens, it was not just inconceivable that Rubio could beat Crist, but also inconceivable that Jeb Bush was still a force in the Florida Legislature, which Nickens wrote about as if Jeb’s influence was a surprise to anyone who does not work for the Poynter Institute.

Actually, if you review (as I have) For a Better Florida and all of the other articles the Times, the Herald, the Sentinel, etc., published previewing the 2010 Legislative Session, there is hardly a mention of SB6 or HB 1143, the education reform and abortion bills that shaped the course of this year’s session.  To put it bluntly, no one in Florida’s press corps had any clue about the shit storm that was coming Tallahassee’s way.  To Florida’s media, the introduction of this bill was, um, inconceivable.

And, on the biggest political story of the year, Charlie Crist’s decision to abandon the GOP and run as an Independent, Florida’s media was caught with its pants down, despite several bloggers, including this one, discussing the idea as early as November 2009.  The idea of Charlie Crist losing to Marco Rubio was just inconceivable to those who write The Buzz and The Juice and Naked Politics.

Sometimes, I wonder if there is too much PolitiFacting and not enough prescience, too much Buzzing and not enough on-the-ground reporting.

There was a story I posted about who was really in charge of the Crist campaign, that a college friend of Crist’s named Dan Smading was guding the campaign through the transition from the GOP primary to an Independent run.  My “friend” Adam Smith dismissed Smading’s influence out-of-hand, just as Crist’s staffers were telling me that they had to “re-interview” with Smading in order to keep their positions.

Was I wrong?  Was Smith right?

Has Charlie Crist’s campaign talked to Michael Bloomberg’s staff?

Maybe, maybe not.  But, as for any notion that Florida’s mainstream media has a monopoly on the truth about this race, that is…

Inconceivable.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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