DSCC gives sneak peak of strategy against Crist

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) on Wednesday gave The Hill a sneak peek at the party's likely strategy against Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who announced Tuesday he is running for the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Mel Martinez.

Menendez cited Crist's work habits - the governor has come under scrutiny from several Florida newspapers for a lackadaisical schedule - and the massive economic challenges facing the Sunshine State that Crist will leave behind. The DSCC recently published an advertisement accusing Crist of "leaving Floridians with the mess."

"The bottom line is that it's fair game to say the governor is walking away from the problems of the state," Menendez said. "There's a billion-dollar state deficit, there's huge insurance problems, high foreclosure rates and high unemployment rates. Walking away from the state as governor at a time like that, and suggesting that he's going to be able to solve those problems for Floridians better as a junior senator of the minority party is a tough row to hoe. It looks more like he's bailing out."

Republicans, meanwhile, are firing back at that line of attack. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) defended Crist by saying that the governor simply wants a new approach.

Martinez also noted that DSCC has not produced any ads about Crist's GOP primary opponent, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

"I think its a compliment to Gov. Crist that they're so worried about him that they had an ad up even before he was running," Martinez said. "They don't have an ad against Rubio."

Martinez said Crist can still tackle the state's problems effectively from Washington.

"It's about a national focus versus a more state-oriented focus," he said. "And Florida is at the forefront of national issues every day."

Crist faces former House Speaker Marco Rubio in the GOP primary for Martinez's seat. So far two Democrats have also announced their candidacy - Rep. Kendrick Meek and state Sen. Dan Gelber.

- J. Taylor Rushing

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