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To Get Elected, Florida's Rubio Leaving Climate Action Past Behind

Crist gets flak for political opportunism. But it's Tea Party favorite Rubio who's shifted from climate promoter to climate denier

By Elizabeth McGowan

Nov 1, 2010

Rubio also was receptive to tackling global warming, grasping all the arguments about energy independence and national security, Tamminen said. He added that Rubio was intrigued with California’s “Hydrogen Highway” and the idea of turning citrus waste into biofuels.

“He might have had a slightly different flavor, but I wouldn’t have differentiated him from other progressive Republicans,” he said, adding that in addition to Crist and Schwarzenegger, governors such as Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Jodi Rell of Connecticut are also on that list. “They’re the Teddy Roosevelt Republicans who know that whether you have a 'D' or an 'R' in front of your name, everyone’s kids get asthma if the air is bad.”

To set his legislative outline as House speaker, Rubio earned praise for organizing “Idearaisers.” These brainstorming sessions encouraged Floridians to offer input to transform state government. The best ideas—which included promoting energy efficient buildings, appliances and vehicles—were compiled into a book called
Crist labeled global warming “one of the most important issues that we will face this century” during his first address to the Florida Legislature in 2007, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Karnas, the former climate project director for the served on a 21-member that Crist formed in 2007 to persuade state legislators to curb heat-trapping gases and promote clean energy technology.

Schwarzenegger called Crist “another great action hero” after the Florida governor’s two-day climate summit in Miami energized 600 attendees. Crist announced plans to slice power plant emissions, promote energy efficiency in buildings and boost biofuels. He organized a second summit in 2008.

What Happened to Florida Climate Initiatives?

Many of the climate change-related initiatives spawned by Rubio and Crist—including huge leaps such as establishing a renewable electricity standard and a cap-and-trade system that included a regional market—flamed out or became trapped in legislative limbo.

“The only reason Rubio didn’t jump on Crist’s bandwagon is because he wanted to create his own bandwagon,” Tamminen said about Rubio’s separate initiatives.

Under Rubio’s strong-armed guidance as speaker, the Florida House passed an centered on providing green government loans, offering incentives for purchasing energy-efficient appliances and renewable power supplies, requiring government buildings to meet new energy standards and increasing the use of alternative transportation fuels.

Some Florida environmentalists criticized Crist after he canceled his 2009 climate summit and abandoned most of his green promises. Others understood that he had to reinvent his message when Rubio emerged as a strong contender in the Senate race. Crist claimed his decisions were based on the lousy economy, not his Senate bid.  

“When he started to run for the Senate, Rubio tacked where the polls were tacking,” said Tamminen, pointing out that Rubio left the Florida House in 2008. “He could say anything he wanted while campaigning because he wasn’t voting and he wasn’t having to pass legislation.”

Crist, on the other hand, has to choose his words and issues more gingerly because he is still an elected official.

Endorsements and Polls

A Quinnipiac University poll released Oct. 28 gives Rubio just a seven-point lead over Crist, 42 percent to 35 percent among likely voters. Meek rings in with 15 percent.

Crist truly is a shameless pragmatist

While I take your point about Rubio, you have lost all but the choir, so to speak, for preaching that Rubio is a great opportunist than Crist.

One item: when it was clear that Crist would not be able to win the primary, rather than try, he bowed out.

Second item: rather than return GOP donations upon abandoning his primary race for an independent race, he told donors it was up to them to seek a return. Sounds like a "thanks for nothing, suckers" attitude to me.

Third item: since September, he has repeatedly referred to Rubio as a right wing extremist. Rhetoric, perhaps, but the clear rhetoric of a real opportunist.

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