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Rick Perry calls Scott 'passionate dude,' blasts Crist

Texas Gov. Rick Perry came to the defense Thursday of his friend, Gov. Rick Scott, as the Republican Governors Association joined the chorus of GOP voices criticizing Charlie Crist's Democratic candidacy for governor and his record as a Republican governor from 2007-2011.

Perry called Scott "one passionate dude" in his pursuit of new jobs for Florida. In a conference call with Florida reporters while Scott was on an overseas trade mission in Japan, Perry praised Scott as a fiscal conservative and drew on familiar GOP talking points, saying Scott has grown jobs, reduced debt, increased reserves and "cleaned up the mess that Charlie Crist created," including a steep increase in unemployment and "loss of 832,000 jobs."

Crist has said repeatedly that the state's economic woes were the result of a global economic meltdown and that Florida would have been in far worse shape if he didn't accept billions in federal stimulus money that Scott opposed.

"I know Rick Scott, and I know Charlie Crist, and I know the difference. Rick Scott is a clear leader. He's a job creator who has been a great competitor ... He compels me to be a more competitive governor," Perry said. "Charlie Crist dug Florida into a pretty deep hole and Rick Scott's been digging the Sunshine State out of it ever since."

Perry and Scott are good friends who have sparred good-naturedly over their states' job-creation efforts, and they took part in a fishing competition off Destin last year. Scott has several ties to Texas: He attended law school at SMU and later practiced law in Dallas and his younger daughter Jordan now lives in the state.

When Crist ran successfully for governor as a Republican in 2006, the RGA pumped $1 million into his campaign, a sum that prompted Democrats to file election law complaints. Then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney presented the check to Crist in an event at the Tallahassee airport. Perry joined other Republican governors in praising Crist, who hosted an RGA event in Miami in November 2008 where Sarah Palin dominated the spotlight.

-- Steve Bousquet