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Charlie Crist: I'm the real conservative

Sounding engaged and no longer a bit dismissive of the threat from former House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican U.S. Senate race**, Gov. Charlie Crist suggested the Miami Republican has escaped significant scrutiny and has been able to campaign in a vacuum. But not for long.

"What is said sometimes on the campaign trail isn't necessarily consistent with the record...I mean, he's voted for tax increases several times as speaker and as representative,'' Crist said of Rubio.

Tax increases? Well, he's right when it comes to education. Rubio voted for education budgets that failed to roll back property taxes (and thereby increased taxes). Problem for Crist: These were budgets Gov. Jeb Bush signed (he called the tax increase issue "irrelevant" or something like that). And guys like Rep. Jeff Kottkamp (Crist's Lt. Gov.) voted for them as well along with every other Republican.

Then there's the matter of Rubio's plan to swap property taxes with an increase in sales tax. Crist's administration called it a tax increase. Problem for Crist: Crist himself then backed a similar tax-swap plan proposed by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. The proposal was stricken from the 2008 ballot due to misleading wording.

"Campaigns thank God are an educational opportunity. During the course of the next nine months or so we will strive to lay out a very good education...I believe in Reagan's 11th Commandment- thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican - but I also think you need to be honest and truthful and make sure that before people go to the ballot box they have a good opportunity to be well-informed."

Crist also downplayed the likelihood of a low-turnout prmary electorate of ardent conservatives who would kick him to the curb. For one thing, several statewide Republican primaries should increase turnout, he noted, and for another, he's plenty conservative.

"It's hard to be more concervative than I am on issues - though there are different ways stylistically to communicate that - I'm pro-life, I'm pro-gun, I'm pro-family, and I''m anti tax. (Critics will note he voted against abortion restrictions as a legislator and used to call himself "pro-choice," that he supported higher cigarette taxes) I don't know what else you're supposed to be, except maybe angry too,'' Crist said, noting a Daily Kos poll that found Rubio leading among Florida Republicans who doubt President Obama was born in America.

"There are a lot of Republicans that don't have the inclination to go to executive committee meetings,'' he said. "There is wide swath of republican voters out there that don't necessarily listen to cable tv all the time."

** The blog above was cobbled from Adam Smith's post on The Buzz.

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