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Charlie Crist: Rick Scott's "trying to bully me by waving around his $100 million checkbook."


Get ready for the most-negative Florida governor's race we've ever seen.

Yes, we could probably say that every year. But this time it will likely be disproportionately nasty.

A full 365 days before Election Day, Gov. Rick Scott announced his first ad -- a negative one -- against predecessor and new rival Charlie Crist on the day the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat announced his candidacy.

And Crist made sure to mention all the bad that Scott has done to the education budget (cut more than $1 billion in his first year) and as a businessman, when the Scott-led Columbia/HCA hospital chain was investigated for Medicare fraud and ultimately paid a record $1.7 billion fine.

Said Crist this morning in St. Petersburg at his kickoff: "Governor Scott has led like this: Embrace the ideological fringes, take care of his friends, bully his opponents, hide from the public and the press and run from tough issues. Shouldn't really come as a surprise, though. Think about it: he hid from federal investigators as a businessman and his company had to pay the largest fine at the time for fraud in the history of America."

Note: the fine was the biggest Medicare fraud fine at the time, but not the largest fraud-fine ever.

"He disparaged a good woman, Alex Sink, in 2010," Crist continued. "And now he's trying to bully me by waving around his $100 million checkbook -- a hundred million dollars -- and he says he will start spending $25 million, I think it begins tonight, on me. With false advertising, negative ads and nothing about his record because he doesn't have a record that he's proud of... The first ad for his reelection released today, guess what? It's a negative one."

But it's not as if Crist was sunny, either. And he wasn't always accurate.

"Rick Scott can spend a billion dollars on his dishonest ads and it won't matter" if the grass roots rise up, Crist said. However, the ad that Scott announced today simply quoted Democrats trashing Crist. There wasn't much that was dishonest about it.

Whether the ad will be effective or not is another matter. Crist is well-known and well-liked. Scott is far less popular. And there's a chance that by making Crist out to be a flip-flopper, Scott could be helping Crist seem flexible at the same time that Crist is trying to make Scott out to be a rigid ideologue.

"The far right wing wants to make much of my party affiliation. That is precisely what is wrong with politics today," Crist said.

Having run multiple times statewide as a Republican, however, Crist won't shake one tried-and-true campaign technique used by the GOP: Tax cuts. Crist called for more to help the middle class.

"I do believe in cutting taxes," Crist said Barely a cheer from the crowd. Welcome to running as a Democrat, Charlie.

As a member of the minority party, Crist is also facing another first: Being outspent.

But, when it came to kvetching about "special interests" funding his opponent, Crist neglected to mention that he once enjoyed the largesse of every major special interest when he was governor.

So when Crist said "I don't have their special interest checkbook." He forgot to add: "any longer." (See  the $52,000 Ponzi Cake). And for all his complaining about negative campaigning, Crist has done it for years as well.

Crist also criticized Scott for "flying around in your private jet to hold press conferences." Crist did the same as governor -- except he didn't own his own plane so taxpayers paid for it.

Also, Crist's last year in office coincided with the collapse of the economy. And critics are quick to note that, in contrast to Scott's term, Florida's unemployment rate increased from 3.5% to 11.1% under Crist. Florida is now a job-growth leader.