The latest news from the Florida GOP primary race: Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush Jr. endorsed Marco Rubio yesterday, a nice gift to the former Florida state house speaker, who turns 38 today. Rubio had endorsed Huckabee back in December 2007, so it's not a surprise that Huckabee decided to scratch Rubio's back in return. While Jeb Bush's Jr.'s endorsement isn't the game-changer that his father could provide, it seems unlikely that Bush Jr. would have thrown his support behind Rubio without his father's approval.
Meanwhile, Charlie Crist raised cigarette taxes and fees for motorists yesterday. The St. Petersburg Times's Marc Caputo reports:
What's a governor to do when he signs a budget with $2.2 billion in new taxes and fees when he repeatedly promised to oppose new taxes? If you're Charlie Crist, change the emphasis of the discussion.
In signing the budget Wednesday, Crist repeatedly stressed that the budget has no "broad-based tax increases." Crist pointed out that only 2 million people smoke in Florida. So the new tax they pay isn't "broad based" because there are about 18.3 million Floridians.
"It's broad based, if it's a majority," Crist said. "Clearly."
Here's what's clear: The state has about 15.6 million driver licenses and about 18.8 million motor vehicles. All of them will have to pay more.
Crist's obfuscation seems a little ham-handed, but he's still clearly a very talented politician. The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Thomas explains how Crist played the legislature as dopes and made himself a hero to gun owners and state employees:
During this most recent session, Charlie's policy was to plunder trust funds to plug budget holes. Legislators went along with that, plundering 35 of them. One was a fund used to process concealed weapons permits. So what does Charlie do? He vetoes it, playing hero to the NRA, protecting the rights of gun owners from lawmakers.
And then he vetoes legislation to cut the salaries of state employees, again saving them from the evil legislators. It's not a bad idea to ingratiate yourself with thousands of state workers when gearing up for a Senate run.