Feeling heat from right, Crist shifts position on stimulus

Gov. Charlie Crist, who campaigned for the $787 billion stimulus package, now says he wouldn't have voted for it. But he still embraces it.

Ever since the Republican's support of the Democratic plan outraged conservatives, Crist has tried to steer a middle course over his stance on the federal spending bill — but now his explanations are becoming extremely nuanced as his Republican U.S. Senate opponent, Marco Rubio, has hammered him as being a President Obama lackey.

On Wednesday night, Crist told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he "didn't endorse" the stimulus bill and he wouldn't have voted for it. The Associated Press, however, pointed out that Crist had once told AP that he had "endorsed" it.

Crist was the only major Republican to campaign for the stimulus bill by appearing onstage with Obama in February. He even asked congressional Republicans to vote for it.

On Thursday, when asked by state Capitol reporters if he were changing his position, Crist said, "I don't think so. I don't think so."

Without the stimulus bill — which provides Florida $15.7 billion over three budget years ending next budget year — the state would have faced massive deficits and likely would have had to lay off state workers and cut back on education and Medicaid spending.

Crist's administration credits the stimulus bill with saving more than 20,000 teacher jobs out of 47,000 jobs that were positively affected by the spending.

But many rank-and-file Republicans say Crist shouldn't have backed the bill. A recent Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times poll showed that 66 percent of Republicans opposed Crist's decision to stump with Obama.


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