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Charlie Crist in DC: Raising money with Democrats, courting the Teamsters

We caught up with Charlie Crist this morning after he and his team pitched the U.S. Department of Education on why Florida deserves $700 million in Race to the Top grant money. But we wanted to talk Senate race politics (and he didn't seem opposed to that either).

A little more detail on how tonight's fund-raiser at the Washington, D.C., home of Clinton loyalists Mark Penn and Nancy Jacobson came together. Crist said his link to Jacobson (he's not yet met Penn) is through Danny Ponce. Ponce is a Democrat and lawyer in Florida, who once served as special counsel to Bob Graham, the former governor and senator. Ponce also is involved in an array of business and academic boards, most recently when Crist named his as a University of Florida trustee. (Ponce got his undergraduate and law degrees at UF.) Crist told us this morning that Ponce is "a great Florida Gator" and also a personal friend who "kind of was able to connect me with" Jacobson.

The Republican-turned-independent governor running for Senate wouldn't say a whole lot more about tonight's fund-raiser.

But he let drop that he's meeting with the Teamsters while in DC today to seek their general election endorsement, regardless which Democrat emerges from the Aug. 24 primary. Crist won't see union president James P. Hoffa but rather another high-ranking official. Crist said he's enjoyed various unions' support in most of his past elections and that his pitch to the Teamsters is "just that i want to fight for the people . . . I really have a heart for the people and work for the people.''

-Lesley Clark and Margaret Talev

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