Although Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera's appearance at the J.C. Newman Cigar Factory in Tampa today was billed as a non-political event, Rick Scott's running mate made sure to use the occasion to disparage Charlie Crist and Barack Obama when discussing new FDA regulations that the cigar store's owners say could force them to give up their 119-year-old business.
Though his only criticisms at the mic while standing next to owner Eric and Bobby Newman were on what they all called too much government regulation of a premium cigar factory (the last of its kind in Tampa), Lopez-Cantera let loose when talking with a reporter from the Fox News Channel immediately after taking a half-hour tour of the facility.
"This is a perfect example of Barack Obama and Charlie Crist not getting it, because why?" he told the FNC reporter while a few local reporters stood nearby. "They’ve never built anything. They’ve never run anything. Governor Scott and my family built businesses out of nothing, so we get it, this is a clear distinction between the two philosophies of the two parties. More government, which puts small businesses out of business like this one out of business and puts more middle-class people out in the street, or less regulations, less government because we believe they know they’re responsible enough to run their business?"
Immediately after the formal news conference ended, CL asked the Lieutenant Governor what did he attribute the rise in the polls for Governor Scott over the course of the past month? For much of 2014 Charlie Crist maintained a roughly five-percentage point lead of the GOP incumbent, but the most recent polls show the candidates in a dead heat, with Scott actually now taking a small percentage point lead in the latest surveys.
"As you get closer to the election, people start paying attention and they see the great work that has been done, they see the turnaround in the economy, which is what [Governor Scott] said he would do when he ran for office — jobs and the economy," adding that as voters look at probable Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist, "they're revisiting looking at him and you don't know what you're going to get with Charlie."
Although Governor Scott went over nine months without having a Lieutenant Governor after the departure of Jennifer Carroll in March of 2013, he was expected to name one just in time for the campaign season, which essentially began at the beginning of 2014. So after a little more prodding, the 40-year-old Lopez-Cantera (who bears a striking resemblance to Tampa native and former New York Yankee star Tino Martinez) casually described why his boss was the better choice for Floridians in November.
"The previous governor didn’t have his finger on the pulse. He didn’t really pay attention to the economic crises. He was more concerned about running for the Senate. He was more concerned about being a vice presidential nominee with John MCCain. He was never really concerned about governing in Florida, and when the state needed governing the most in 2010, that’s exactly when he abandoned the state and ran for the US Senate."
"So those are the kinds of things that voters are remembering and starting to refocus on," he added, " and I think that’s why you see the numbers starting to shift in Governor Scott’s direction."
CL has reached out to the Charlie Crist camp for comment.