BY BUDDY NEVINS
Charlie Crist will be Topic One on Saturday at the premier Florida Democratic Party fundraiser for the year, the Jefferson/Jackson Dinner in Hollywood.
For former governor Crist, being talked about by Broward Democrats this year is nothing new. He has been sniffing around Broward since he started testing the waters for a governor’s race.
When he wasn’t here, he was phoning key Broward Democrats and donors almost daily.
His interest in Broward is understandable since the county is the Florida’s Democratic stronghold. It is also the home of former State Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, his only primary opponent to date.
Broward is the only county where Rich has any name recognition.
“Every supporter he gets in Broward is one that won’t go for Rich,” said a veteran Democrat who asked not to be named.
Last week was typical for Crist.
Floridians for A Stronger Tomorrow, a committee run by former State Sen. Steve Geller, hosted a lunch for Crist with leaders expected to be influential in the Democratic primary.
“Charlie got a very, very good reception. Some of his most enthusiastic (supporters) were condo leaders in Nan Rich’s (former) district,” Geller said.
Geller conceded that some of the Democrats were suspicious of Crist, a former conservative Republican-turned independent-turned Democrat.
“They had substantial questions like, ‘How do we know you’re a good Democrat?’” One participant said. “He answered to their satisfaction.”
Those meeting Crist found he had something else that Florida Democratic candidates have been sadly lacking – charisma.
“A few people have star power. A few people have that quality called “it.” Charlie has “’it,’” Geller said.
I’ve seen Crist’s charisma unleashed. He is perhaps the best retail politician I’ve witnessed with the notable exception of Bill Clinton.
Needless to say, Gov. Rick Scott not only lacks charisma. He comes across on TV — the way most voters will watch the 2014 campaign – as creepy and cold.
Although he is no Crist, Scott isn’t bad in small groups.
The governor and his Republican friends will have roughly $100 million to change voters opinions of Crist. They have already started with a web campaign called A Day In Cristory here. It highlights what will surely be Crist’s biggest weakness: His switch from conservative Republican to Democrat.
But just who else do the Democrat’s have? Nobody who knows this state’s politics believes Rich can win.
Winnability is the reason why for Democrats this weekend there is really only one candidate to run against Gov. Scott – Charlie Crist.