Not so long ago, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s bid for the Senate was written off and his chances of winning seemed so remote that he needed to switch parties and run as an independent to have a chance at victory. Now, though, he has gained momentum and is campaigning with one of the most unusual teams ever assembled.
His third-party bid is staffed by a collection of misfits who run the gamut from longtime loyalists to out-of-state hired guns. They have worked for Democrats, for Republicans and even for prominent independents. As with Crist, ideology appears to take a back seat to winning office.
“The personalities are neither Republican nor Democrat. They are fans of Charlie’s and devoted to winning. No real ideology to get in the way of tactical decisions,” said Brett Doster, a Tallahassee-based GOP strategist who ran President George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign in Florida. “Charlie is firmly in control of his own campaign with no one to hold him back from saying or doing whatever it takes to win.”
Crist’s inner circle runs the gamut from a onetime, in-state foe — the former political director for the Florida Democratic Party — to a press aide who has worked for party switchers in New York and Missouri. Even his older sister, Margaret Wood, plays a special role.
The mix is so eclectic that campaign professionals aren’t sure what to make of it.
“I can only speak for Florida, but outside of local elections, yes, this kind of political melting pot is unprecedented in this state at this level,” said Democratic consultant Steve Vancore.
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