Gov. Charlie Crist proudly announced yesterday that war hero/Swiftboater Bud Day was backing his campaign. It was a sign that Crist could get strong support in the Panhandle.
But in comments to his hometown newspaper, theNorthwest Florida Daily News, Day did what he often does: Make news. Check it out:
“You know, we just got through (electing) a politician who can run his mouth at Mach 1, a black one, and now we have a Hispanic who can run his mouth at Mach 1,” Day said. “You look at their track records and they’re both pretty gritty. Charlie has not got a gritty track record.”
Day confirmed he was speaking of Obama and Rubio.
“You’ve got the black one with the reading thing. He can go as fast as the speed of light and has no idea what he’s saying,” Day said. “I put Rubio in that same category, except I don’t know if he’s using one of those readers.”
The newspaper didn't apparently press Day on why race and ethnicity were necessary descriptors of the pols. But why should they? This is the largely lilly white Panhandle, where stark opinions about race and ethnicity barely boil underneath the surface. Remember the Marianna Middle School teacher who told his kids in 2008 that Obama's "Change" slogan was an acronym that stood for "Come Help A 'N' Get Elected?"
Then there was an awkward moment on the 2004 campaign trail in Valparaiso when then-U.S. Senate candidate Bill McCollum (now AG and Republican gov. frontrunner) was giving a speech about his knowledge of the Muslim world terrorism. It so impressed Okaloosa County Republican Chairman Bob Fischer that he asked "How did you learn to so smoothly pronounce the names of those rag-heads?"
The room of about 50 people peeled with laughter. McCollum froze for a second, but quickly recovered.
In the raw world of racial politics, bashing Muslims could be a vote-getter in the Panhandle and kvetching about blacks and Hispanics hasn't proved to be so harmful in conservative primaries. But in a state where Hispanics comprise the fastest-growing segment of the electorate, Day's comments come close to putting Crist on shaky political ground.