Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nan Rich believes Charlie Crist will ultimately debate her

Posted By on Wed, Jan 29, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Nan Rich
  • Nan Rich
Political strategists say it might be a smart strategy now, but Nan Rich is convinced that while Charlie Crist is blowing off participating in any debates with her right now, he'll ultimately agree to do so as the Democratic primary approaches in August.

"It’s kind of stunning to me that a candidate who's new to the Democratic party wouldn’t want to have the opportunity to express his positions to Democratic voters around the state, but I think ultimately he will," Rich said Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday Crist said he has no plans to debate Rich, the other major Democrat on the ballot for the party's nomination for governor this year, telling the Miami Herald that he's "focused on doing everything I can to help the people of Florida, and this is not really a race about candidates."

Rich agrees that it's about the people of Florida, Democrats in particular. She says they would best be served by having the two engage in policy discussions to inform them about where they stand on the issues.

Political consultant and (former Executive Director of the Florida Democratic Party) Ana Cruz says that while she "loves and respects" Rich, she says that state Democrats know both candidates sufficiently already, and thus there's not such a great need for debates.

But that's not what polling shows. A Public Policy Poll released last week shows that most of the state still isn't that familiar with Rich, who served in the state House and Senate from 2000-2012 representing Broward County, with the last two years serving as Senate Minority Leader.

"If I was advising one of these candidates I'd say, keep your head down, keep your head on the phones, raise the money that you're going to need to get your message out this summer," says Cruz.

Some statewide Democrats refuse to engage in whether or not Crist's current attitude about debating matters that much. "Each candidate makes their own strategic campaign decisions. Those decisions are based on their own objectives and internal data," said Alan Clendenin, First Vice Chair, Florida Democratic Party.

When Crist entered the gubernatorial race late last year, Rich audaciously called for 10 separate debates with the new Democrat, one in each of the state's largest media markets. She says that she never believed Crist would take her up on that offer, but Crist did say that "down the road" after January 1 he was open to participating in a forum with Rich.

But that was then.

Rich also notes the trend in the polling, where Rick Scott is gaining on Crist in a one-on-one matchup, while the gap between her and the governor has remained consistent (Rich trails Scott in the PPP survey by six percentage points, 40-34).

"Having never run state wide race before, that’s a pretty good place to be 10 months from the election," she says, ever the optimist.

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