It's a tradition for organized labor to hold public events on Labor Day. And it's a tradition that Democratic candidates attend such events. Republicans? It's not really their thing.
Which is why Charlie Crist's appearance at the Florida Pipe Trades Labor Day picnic in Dover on Monday felt so unusual. The Governor is a man without a party, but he's getting by with a little help from his friends - in this case, organized labor, whose endorsements count, especially when they don't go to a Democrat.
Driving south on McIntosh Road in Dover leading up to the event, Crist signs were implanted on the grass lining the main road for miles away. Upon entering, it was apparent that nearly everyone, including many children, were wearing either T-shirts on stickers proclaiming support their support for the Governor for U.S. Senate.
"I'm tired of the gridlock in Washington D.C," Crist said in his remarks to those in attendance. "I'm tired of the parties getting so caught up in the political argument of the day, they forget they're supposed to work for you every day. For the people first, not the party first. That's what's wrong with Washington right now, no matter what issue you want to talk about, they can't get anything done. I'm running against two people who are ....already lodged in to what they have to say, what they have to believe, what they have talk about before thinking about you first. That's not what democracy is supposed to be all about. It's supposed to be about the people."
Oh yes, "the people." It's the term the Governor invokes constantly. Sometimes it gets him in trouble, like when he says it's "the people," who'll he'll be caucusing with if elected to go to Washington.
But he's created "the people," to be his natural constituency, since he no longer has the formal backing of the Republican party and can't get the official imprimatur of the Democrats - and since both parties are so unpopular these days, he's able to use that dissatisfaction to his advantage, as he can now say he's above the fray of partisan warfare.
Speaking on Labor Day, Crist boasted about how he's stood by working men and women in his time in Tallahassee, saying, "when the Legislature wanted to reduce your health benefits. I said no, and stood up for the people instead, and that's what I'll do as your United States Senator. When the Legislature said they were going to cut your salaries, the state workers, your salaries of up to 4%, I said no....When the Legislature said they were going to embarrass school teachers by passing Senate Bill 6, that they were in essence punish them, I said 'no', and used that veto pen, and that's what I'll do as your United States Senator."
Crist spent about 15 minutes shaking hands and taking photos with union members and their children when he first entered the Dover training center before taking questions from reporters.