Crist hits high-speed rail in announcing Fla. bid

Republican-turned-Democratic former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist criticized incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) for rejecting high-speed rail money from the Obama administration in his announcement of his new campaign on Monday. 

Announcing a challenge to Scott in 2014 in St. Petersburg, Fla., Crist twice noted that Scott rejected $2.4 billion that Florida was offered to build a high-speed railway between Orlando and Tampa that had been sought for years by state leaders. [WATCH VIDEO HERE]

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The quashed railway figures to play a central role in the clash between Crist and Scott because the newly minted Democratic candidate campaigned for the money when he was Florida governor, from 2007 to 2011. 

Crist foreshadowed the high-speed rail attack in an interview last week with the News Service of Florida before his announcement on Monday.   

"Unbelievable. That could have created tens of thousands of jobs," Crist said of the stalled high-speed rail proposal. 

"Have you driven on I-4? I wonder if he has," Crist continued in the interview. "He doesn't have to. He flies over it in his jet. How does he have a clue what we're feeling? It's hard to have empathy if you haven't suffered like that and been on I-4. I'm on it once a week, man."

Scott was one of three Republican governors who turned down money from the administration in 2011 in a high-profile rejection of President Obama's push to build a nationwide networks of railways he said would eventually rival the U.S. interstate highway system. 

Crist is widely believed to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for the right to challenge Scott in 2014. He's facing opposition from former state Democratic leader Nan Rich, but Rich has struggled to raise money and match Crist's statewide name recognition. 

The potential race between Crist and Scott is expected to be one of the most contentious campaigns in the country next year because of bad blood between Crist and the Florida Republican Party over his exit from the party in 2010. 

Crist left the GOP to run for the Senate as an independent after falling badly behind now-Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in a primary for the Republican nomination in the 2010 election. 

After being unsuccessful in his bid to win a Senate seat, Crist campaigned for Obama's reelection in Florida in 2012, and he announced his party switch during a visit to the White House after the president was reelected. 

Scott has reportedly pledged to spend as much as $100 million on the effort to defeat Crist.