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U.S. Senate Candidates Work to Snag Votes


Tallahassee, FL – Three big names are vying for the U.S. Senate seat, competing for votes. For Democrat Kendrick Meek and Gov. Charlie Crist, who's running with no party affiliation, it's a tug-of-war for Democratic voters. For GOP candidate Marco Rubio, it's locking in the Republican vote and, as Lynn Hatter reports, snagging the conservative wing, too.

After securing the Democratic nomination, Congressman Kendrick Meek has set about labeling himself as the true Democrat and the governor as a political opportunist.

"If you're a leader, you can step out in traffic knowing you can make it to the other side of the street," Meek said. "It may be difficult, but it's necessary. And in the governor's case, when the going got tough, he bailed out. He ran down to the supervisor of elections office in Pinellas County and registered as an independent. It doesn't necessarily mean he embraced the independent spirit, but he did it for political convenience."

Meek needs a strong showing of Democratic support to win the Senate seat, and Crist, who's running as a no-party candidate, could ruin it for him. That's because the governor polls well among Democrats and, in the last few weeks, several Democratic lawmakers have endorsed him. The biggest name so far is state Senate minority leader, Al Lawson.

"When the Legislature wanted to take a four-percent cut in state employees' pay, [Crist] stood up against it," said Lawson. "When the Legislature wanted to increase health insurance premiums, he stood up against it."

Not only is Crist looking to pick off votes from Meek, he's also trying to divert support from Republican candidate Marco Rubio while wooing independents. It's an effort to seem all things to all voters. In recent weeks, the governor has seemingly changed his position on issues like the federal health care reform bill. The Meek campaign has seized the opportunity.

"As you know the governor is raising the bar on the flipping and the flopping on everything. That's why he won't be the next U.S. Senator. People want to know where you stand and he's all over the board."

But Crist says he hasn't changed his positions. He's just re-evaluated them.

"I'm a thinking guy. I think when you get new facts you ought to think about what's best for the people and appropriately address it."

All of the candidates are looking to endorsements and one that is still lingering out there is from the Florida Tea Party - the political group. It's holding off for now on an endorsement for U.S. Senate, but according to party leaders, the choice is between Libertarian candidate Alex Snitker, Rubio and Crist. The party's Doug Guetzloe says it's looking solely at economic issues and isn't getting involved in social causes.

"Marco Rubio, I was one of his first contributors a year ago but he has got caught up in the RPOF credit card scandal," Guetzloe said. "He is part of the establishment, if you will. Charlie Crist, who's gone independent, has a strong voting record in the senate and as governor as being anti-tax. And Alex Snitker, even though he's new to the scene, libertarian nominee, is very conservative on economic issues."

Who the Tea Party will choose to endorse is still up in the air. It says an endorsement could come as late as the day before the election.