Republican Gov. Rick Scott and former Republican Gov.-turned-Democratic candidate Charlie Crist each began Friday at restaurants on opposite sides of the state, with opposite campaign styles.
Crist’s first stop was Munch’s, a 62-year-old, cash-only classic Florida restaurant where he used to eat as a kid growing up in St. Petersburg. Scott stopped at Players Cafe, a restaurant in a Ponte Vedra Beach strip mall.
After tens of millions of dollars spent and months of negative television ads, both men are spending the final days before Tuesday’s election trying to drive up turnout among supporters and are doing so with a style as different as the men themselves.
Crist stopped at every table and spoke with diners, engaged in pleasant conversation and asked if they’ve already voted. He then popped into the kitchen unannounced and did the same thing. There were no speeches, no mentions of his opponent – just using his charm to win votes.
“Tell everyone to vote!” Crist shouted out to a cook. “Your family! Your friends!”
The cook shouted back, “We want you in!”
That personal touch is one of the reasons John Barfield said he planned to vote for Crist later that day.
“I feel he’s very honest. I feel he connects more and he answers questions unlike the other gentleman running for re-election,” said Barfield, a 55-year-old firefighter. “He feels like a regular person.”
Scott appeared jovial and confident when he arrived in Ponte Vedra. He stopped at a couple of tables near the entrance, posed for photos and cracked jokes about Crist.
Scott then went to the back of the room, where he stepped behind a lectern and microphone. Flanked by supporters with signs, Scott launched into a speech criticizing Crist and President Barack Obama.
“So let’s think of where we’re going,” Scott said. “With Charlie Crist we have no idea. We have no idea. It won’t be good for us, but we have no idea where he’s going.”
Donald Brown, a retired barber who chatted briefly with Scott at the restaurant’s counter, said he had already voted for the governor.
“I voted for him because I don’t want the other guy to get in,” Brown said. “He’s already had his chance.”
The candidates’ second stops also reflected on their differences. Scott, whose campaign slogan is “let’s keep working,” stopped at the offices of a Jacksonville real estate developer. Crist, who calls himself “the people’s governor,” walked through a New Port Richey retirement community and talked with people – again not mentioning his opponent, but rather asking residents about their background and histories.
Scott continued his attacks on Crist, who left the Republican Party in 2010 and ran for Senate as an independent.
“By the way,” Scott said near the beginning of his second speech. “Did you hear about the Republican, the independent and the Democrat that walked into a bar? The bartender said, ‘Hi, Charlie.'”
As Crist walked through the New Port Richey neighborhood, a driver stopped in the middle of the street and shouted out to him, prompting him to walk over and say hello. The man said he is a Republican, but supporting Crist.
“I’m praying the rosary for you. I hope you get in,” the man said before pulling away.
As for the party changes and position switches that Scott keeps bashing Crist over, several people the former governor met said they actually liked him because he was able to change.
“I hear all this ‘Flip-flop! Flip-flop!’ It doesn’t matter. What matters is what’s right here,” 66-year-old Republican Lois Fricke told Crist as she placed her hand over her heart. She later added, “I vote my heart.”
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.