President Barack Obama will make his second trip to Florida as president next week, but don't expect Gov. Charlie Crist to join him this time.
Obama's last trip — to Fort Myers on Feb. 10 — came as he was pitching his economic stimulus plan. At the time, the Republican governor's embrace of the $787 billion spending plan earned him the wrath of fiscal conservatives.
Earlier this week, Crist defended his appearance with Obama, saying he was "our president." On Tuesday, though, Crist said he won't join the president on this trip.
"I don't even know what day he's coming. Do you?" Crist asked a reporter.
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Asked whether the stimulus money is working even though unemployment is still rising in Florida, Crist said, "Well, I think we're just getting started on it. It always takes time to turn these things around."
The White House has not yet released details of the trip, but Obama is expected to visit Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville on Monday before headlining a fundraiser Monday night in Miami for congressional Democrats. He's expected to visit Tampa on Tuesday.
In Florida, Democrats are hoping to take the Senate seat held by Republican George LeMieux, appointed to the post by Crist when Mel Martinez stepped down early. Crist is running for the seat in 2010.
"This isn't a presidential fly through the state," said Miami Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek, who is running for Senate. "To visit three cities in less than 24 hours, President Obama is making a meaningful statement about his commitment to Florida's future."
Tickets to the Miami cocktail reception cost $500, though some donors will raise as much as $100,000 to attend a VIP dinner with the president.
"He's still got a tremendous reach and tremendous draw," said Kirk Wagar, Obama's chief fundraiser in Florida during the 2008 campaign. "Even if you don't agree with everything he does, he's working awfully hard on a wide range of issues, and I think people appreciate that."
Two days after Obama's visit, Vice President Joe Biden is holding fundraisers in Miami and West Palm Beach.
Obama on Tuesday is expected to be in the Tampa area for an event promoting "smart grid," a high-tech electricity supply chain that the Obama administration is backing with $4.4 billion in the federal stimulus package.
"The fact that we're on the White House schedule in the first year of Obama's presidency shows the importance of Florida," Wagar said.