Republicans Shy Away From Presidential Visits

ByABC News
November 6, 2006, 12:04 PM

Nov. 6, 2006 — -- Of the three red states where President Bush has stumped today, a rally in Florida, where his brother is governor, has attracted the most attention, because Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist won't be there.

The Florida governor's race has taken a political back seat as Democrats close their margins on key seats that could mean a takeover in the House and Senate.

Crist, Florida's current attorney general, has in part devoted his campaign strategy to blocking attacks by Democratic challenger Jim Davis that have linked Crist to the national wave of anti-Republican sentiment.

Davis quickly publicized Crist's avoidance of the Bush rally, and was quick to link Crist's no-show to the president's sagging poll numbers.

"Now that the president is so unpopular," Davis said, "Charlie refuses to stand side by side with him."

Crist insists that backing out of the appearance was not a snub at the president but a campaign necessity, and he emphasized his need to spend time in major television markets and more competitive parts of the state, where his lead could be stronger.

Whatever the reason, the fact that Crist was willing to pass up an opportunity to share the stage with Bush speaks volumes about the president's popularity -- or lack thereof -- this campaign season.

Who will stand by the president's side in Florida? In addition to his brother and first lady Laura Bush, he'll have Rep. Katherine Harris, who is more than 20 points down in her bid for the Senate against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.

Crist took to stages in Miami and Boca Raton with former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, blasting Davis on issues like national security. As The Miami Herald reported, he attacked Davis' congressional trip to Cuba and his meeting with the late Yasser Arafat.

"I threw Yasser Arafat out of a U.N. conference," Giuliani said on Sunday's stump for Crist. "Better than that, I didn't invite Fidel Castro.''

Davis later criticized the GOP for using Cuba in a way he described as "shameful."