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Romney Backer: Moderate Crist Won’t Help McCain With Conservatives

Posted Jan 27, 2008 by William March

Updated Jan 27, 2008 at 11:46 PM

Backers of Mitt Romney held a conference call with reporters today to say the endorsement of John McCain by Gov. Charlie Crist won’t sway the race in McCain’s favor.

During the call, former state House Speaker Allan Bense of Panama seemed to suggest that the endorsement of a moderate like Crist won’t help McCain among the conservative Republicans of the Panhandle.

Bense was on the call along with former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings and Al Cardenas, co-chairmen of Romney for Florida.

“When the word got out about Gov. Crist endorsing Sen. McCain, I got 47 calls” to his home and cell phones from people wanting to know how they could help Romney, Bense said on the call.

Asked whether he meant that Crist was a moderate whose endorsement would hurt McCain among conservative Panhandle Republicans, Bense backtracked.

“I endorsed and supported the governor,” he said. “Maybe this is a little different world than the rest of the state. We’re conservative up here.”

He added, “This is a very, very conservative part of the state that perhaps doesn’t endorse all the issues that might be pushed forward.”

Asked what issues he meant, he mentioned the case of Martin Lee Anderson, who died as result of a beating at the hands of guards in juvenile boot camp. Crist OK’d a large settlement for his family.

As Bense seemed to have trouble explaining what he meant, Romney’s top Florida strategist, Sally Bradshaw, who had been listening silently to the conference call, jumped in to come to the rescue.

“Who wouldn’t want Gov. Crist’s endorsement?” she said. “He’s a popular governor, he’s a conservative governor. I would rather Mitt Romney have gotten it,” she said. “I’m disapppointed we didn’t get it.”

But, she added, “John McCain is not a conservative when it comes to the economy.”