Florida's Crist Hammered for Backpedalling on Obama's Stimulus

ABC News' Teddy Davis reports:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's (R) embrace of President Obama's economic stimulus package is continuing to dog the moderate Republican's bid for the U.S. Senate.

Yesterday, Crist told CNN that he never endorsed the stimulus and that he was simply trying to get the best deal for Florida given that the stimulus was headed for passage in Washington.

Now the anti-tax Club for Growth is launching a television ad in Florida aiming to "set the record straight."

"Since Charlie Crist helped pass Barack Obama's spending program, nearly two hundred thousand Floridians have lost their jobs. Unemployment is the highest in decades. Personal income's down. And the deficit in Washington is three times larger," says the ad's narrator.

The ad can be seen at the Club for Growth's website, HERE.

The Club for Growth's decision to launch an ad hammering Crist on the stimulus comes on the heels of the group's president signaling on ABC's "Top Line" earlier this week that the group is leaning towards getting involved in the race on behalf of former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.

"Yesterday, Charlie Crist said he never endorsed the stimulus, but that's simply not true," said Club President Chris Chocola in a written statement released Thursday. "Crist embraced the stimulus, and Florida's economy has suffered for it."

The Club for Growth is correct in claiming that Crist voiced his support for the stimulus.

Back in February, Crist said: "Tuesday I joined President Barack Obama for a town hall meeting in Fort Myers to discuss with Floridians the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

"During the town hall," he continued, "I reiterated my support for the federal stimulus package, and pledged to the people of Florida that here in Florida we stand ready to use our share of the money quickly and responsibly to create new jobs and serve our most vulnerable citizens."

Rubio, who is running to the right of Crist as a foe of the economic stimulus, recently urged conservatives on National Review's "The Corner" blog to finish in Florida what they started in Tuesday's congressional race in upstate New York.

In the 23rd district of New York, conservatives killed the chances of liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava by throwing their support to Doug Hoffman, a disaffected Republican running on the Conservative Party's ballot line. In the end, however, the seat went to the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens.

In an effort not to antagonize grassroots conservatives as happened in New York, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told ABC's Rick Klein on Wednesday that the NRSC would not spend money on behalf of its endorsed candidates in Republican Senate primaries.

Officials at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee think that Cornyn blundered in his Wednesday anouncement. By pledging not to defend its endorsed candidates in competitive Senate prinaries, the DSCC thinks that the NRSC will only embolden grassroots conservatives.

While the DSCC is trumpeting the potential unintended consequences of Cornyn's Wednesday announcement, it is worth noting that some top Democrats believe that Rubio would be tougher to beat in a Florida Senate race than Crist.

Steve Murphy, a top advisor to Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., the frontrunner for the Democratic Party's Senate nomination in Florida, recently told ABC News that Rubio would be tougher to beat than Crist.

While Democrats would certainly try to paint Rubio as advocating a return to "Bush economics," Murphy said Democrats would not be able to blame Rubio for "walking away" from the state's problems the way they are planning to do with Crist, the sitting governor.

Independent analysts also think that Rubio, a Cuban American, would do better in a general election among the state's Latino voters than would Crist.

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