Posted: January 26, 2008 9:51 PM
Florida Gov. Crist Backs McCain Ahead of Key Vote
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed John McCain Saturday night, giving the Arizona senator a critical boost ahead of the Sunshine State’s Tuesday primary.
In announcing his choice, Crist praised McCain as a “true American hero.”
At a county GOP dinner in St. Petersburg, Crist added, “After thinking about it as much as I have, I don’t think anybody would do better than the man who stands next to me, Sen. John McCain.”
McCain is locked in a tight race with Mitt Romney, with Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee trailing. All sought Crist’s endorsement.
The winner of Florida’s primary will capture all 57 delegates at stake, an attractive prize that will set the stage for a virtual nationwide primary on Feb. 5.
“I’m honored and privileged,” McCain told reporters after the endorsement announcement, the AP reported. “And I intend to work very closely with him on the issues. We’ve got to provide home insurance for every person who lives in the path of a hurricane. We are going to have to work together to save the Everglades and other great environmental treasures of this state.”
He quipped: “We will continue to compete for both baseball spring training and for tourism.”
The endorsement came even though the two politicians have clashed over some issues. McCain does not support a national catastrophic insurance fund for Florida and other hurricane-prone states, instead saying he could bring industry and government together to protect homeowners. However, Crist supports such a national fund.
Crist’s move comes a day after Florida Sen. Mel Martinez gave his coveted nod to McCain and promised to vigorously campaign on his behalf in the final days of the campaign. Officials said Martinez lobbied Crist to side with McCain.
“Martinez, the former Orange County mayor who is the first Cuban-American to serve in the U.S. Senate, is hugely popular in South Florida’s Cuban-American community, a crucial voting bloc that accounts for roughly 15 percent of Republican primary voters statewide,” the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Former Gov. Jeb Bush has remained publicly neutral, according to the Orlando Sentinel.