St. Petersburg, Fla.
Tony DiMatteo, a state Republican party committeeman from Pinellas County, introduces to a packed house at the Tick Tock restaurant a number of local GOP activists here to support Newt Gingrich. Included are a few who worked early for Marco Rubio’s 2010 U.S. Senate campaign, back when, DiMatteo points out, Rubio “could not win.”
“Just like Newt could not win a couple of weeks ago,” he adds.
When Gingrich finally arrives, he mentions the Rubio connections, too. “As many of you know, Jose Mallea is helping us in our campaign. He was Marco Rubio’s campaign manager,” Gingrich says. “We discovered last night that Mitt Romney has picked up Charlie Crist’s campaign team.”
“I thought that sort of told you everything you needed to know about this primary,” he adds.
As John McCormack pointed out, Rubio-Crist comparisons are a theme the Gingrich campaign is pushing. And Gingrich is right to point out that a number of Crist advisers are now helping Romney in Florida.
But there are problems with this talking point, too. Back in 2010, Romney actually endorsed Rubio a few days before Gingrich did—and both endorsements came once it was understood Crist was losing and might even leave the party. And besides, there’s plenty of crossover between Romney’s world and Rubio’s. A top Rubio 2010 adviser, Alberto Martinez, is now advising Romney’s presidential campaign, and some alumni from Romney’s 2008 run now work for Rubio in the Senate.
Rubio, for his part, is staying neutral in the primary.