Politics & Government

Meek, Rubio take aim at Crist in Florida's U.S. Senate race

A longtime target of finger-to-the-wind accusations, Gov. Charlie Crist has engaged in an unusual amount of hedging, backpedaling and two-stepping since Tuesday's primary crystallized his opposition in the U.S. Senate race.

What's more, he is refusing to join his chief rivals, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek, on NBC's Meet the Press this Sunday.

"When it comes down to the governor, I think Florida voters are going to really pay close attention because you don't know where he stands on the issues," Meek said in Tallahassee on Monday.

Twice in the past three days, the Crist campaign has scrambled to put out statements clarifying his remarks on health care and same-sex marriage. The Republican-turned-independent candidate has also given muddy answers on returning money to disgruntled donors and on which party he would caucus with if elected.

The difficulty in pinpointing Crist's positions reflects the unprecedented balancing act of an unaffiliated candidate trying to hold together a fragile coalition of Democratic, Republican and non-partisan voters.

"I think it's a struggle not only for him, but for any major independent candidate" said Republican lobbyist Brian Ballard, a longtime Crist ally. "When these issues pop up, Republicans are generally on one side and Democrats are generally on the other, so it's hard to be down the middle."

Meantime, Rubio and Meek are carefully parsing his every word for inconsistencies and ambiguities. In a sign that the governor wants to avoid being double-teamed, Crist has accepted only one of a handful of debate invitations so far. Campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said Crist can't do this Sunday's debate because "he will be with Florida's working families talking about how we can create jobs and rebuild our economy, not sitting in a studio in Washington."

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