In Sunshine State News’ book, Charlie Crist is damned if does, damned if he doesn’t

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It’s no secret that Sunshine State News, the de facto house organ for the Rick Scott campaign in 2010 and 2014, is no fan of Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist. So complaining about SSN’s coverage of Crist is probably akin to writing a letter to the editor of the Boston Globe criticizing its sports columnists for hating on the New York Yankees.

Still, I am a fan of SSN. SaintPetersBlog and Sunshine State News are new media brethren. As much as we spar — and reporter Allison Nielsen and I have had more than our fair share of dust-ups lately — I consider Nancy Smith and Co. part of the Rebel Alliance in the struggle against the Empire that is the Times/Herald capital bureau.

But when it comes to its coverage of Crist, SSN is as biased against him as I once was for him (and if you ask the Crist people, they’ll tell you I was never that biased for him.)

In Sunshine State News’ book, Crist is damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

Case in point is a recent column by Smith in which the veteran journalist dogs Charlie for revving up his re-election campaign. Smith writes about a “constituent” of Crist’s who was upset to have received a fundraising solicitation from Crist.

“This is some serious bull! It hasn’t even been 10 days and you are already asking for money and talking about re-election.”

Yes, Crist is talking about re-election. Why? Because it was Sunshine State News the week before which reported that David Jolly, the Republican incumbent Crist unseated in November, is likely to seek a rematch against Crist.

“If we run in 2018, we will beat him,” Jolly told reporter Allison Nielsen.

Be honest and ask yourself: If you were Crist and you read what Jolly told Nielsen, would you doubt for a moment that a rematch was in the cards? Of course you wouldn’t and that’s why you’d be cranking up the re-election campaign as early as Crist has.

Of course, SSN seems to believe that Crist is as likely to run for Florida governor in 2018 as he is re-election. In a dubiously sourced column from earlier this month, Smith wrote that a ” ‘deep throat’ contact” told her “Charlie is reaching out to ‘monied associates’ and ‘advisors with access ‘s he considers running for Florida governor in 2018.”

While I don’t doubt someone who thinks they are wired into Crist’s inner circle told Smith that, I highly doubt Crist is talking to anyone without Crist in their last name about a statewide bid. Crist is relishing his time back in elected office and the media spotlight; he’s very circumspect about being back in the wilderness again after six years away. NO ONE I’ve spoken to who is familiar with Crist’s thinking can confirm that Crist is “reaching out to ‘monied associates.’ “

Smith’s column is full of other nonsense, including a claim from her source that Crist “has been offering inauguration tickets to these same donors who supported Trump.” In reality, Crist has been offering the free tickets to any and all of his constituents. I have personally connected his office with a grassroots volunteer for the Donald Trump campaign who received tickets. And a friend of mine on Facebook, Young Republican leader Megan Roach, just posted about how she received tickets to the inauguration from Crist’s office.

To most conservatives and Republicans, Charlie Crist will never be allowed out of the political purgatory to which his party-switching led him. And, frankly, he probably deserves that. So, like I said before, I don’t expect a conservative outlet like Sunshine State News to cheer on Crist’s second (or is ithis third or fourth?) act.

But SSN’s coverage of Crist is a blind spot for the organization. It’s given Democratic bomb-thrower Leslie Wimes a platform to sound off again and again about Crist. It foolishly misread what was happening in the race for Congressional District 13 (Nielsen also tweeted that her coverage of the race exceeded our organization’s; by my count FloridaPolitics.com wrote approximately 88 stories and columns about the CD 13 campaign whereas SSN served up about 35 if you include Wimes’ screeds.) And it continues to make a bogeyman of Crist when he’s simply a backbench freshman member of Congress.

One would hope Sunshine State News would have better topics to write about as frequently as it does Crist.

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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.