New data on Rubio pork spending should be great issue for Crist - if he were still in the game

Martinez response at least lets us know that Rubio isn't necessarily from the Grover Norquist school of conservative governing (i.e. the need to "starve the beast" that is government and government spending).  But it does go to show that with closer scrutiny, the former House Speaker has been talking a different game on the campaign stump than how he lived and governed while actually in the state legislature.

Governor Crist has been attempting to seize on that in the past few weeks (though Charlie, enough with the "welcome the NFL' jabs that you employed again this past weekend in St. Petersburg).  But he's received little traction from that.

There's also this from Caputo's story:

The budget list also links Rubio to a $20 million special line item for Jackson Memorial Hospital in 2008. Months later, Rubio established a consulting firm with a former aide and scored an $8,000 monthly consulting contract with the hospital.

Because it would have paid less than $100,000 a year, the contract was a no-bid deal that didn't have to undergo a vote of the Public Health Trust, a county agency that runs Jackson.

Rubio's spokesman, Martinez, said every Miami-Dade member supported Jackson, the state's largest provider of charity care. Rubio no longer works for Jackson, and he has stressed that he never lobbied for the hospital.

Rubio did work as a local-government lobbyist through his former law firm, Becker & Poliakoff. In 2002, Becker & Poliakoff — but not Rubio specifically — served as a lobbyist for Miami-Dade County on a request for $5 million for community rehabilitation projects. Rubio sponsored that item, which was vetoed.

Martinez said Rubio was a lawyer for the firm, not a lobbyist in the strict sense of the word.

Say what? "not a lobbyist in the strict sense of the word"?  Look, we know "lobbyists" has become a second L-word that politicians are loath to embrace, but isn't this getting a little bit too, Clintonesque?

Marco Rubio is looking like a normal politicians more and more every day, and there's nothing wrong with that.  We like politicians (unlike most people we know).  But being just another politician isn't what got Rubio on the cover of National Review last August, nor did it get him invited to CPAC last month.  He is looking more mortal every day, but you'd never know that Florida Republicans are paying attention.  Or maybe they are, and they just don't care, so strong is their disdain for Charlie Crist.

And by the way, what does this say about the Democrats in Florida?  Kendrick Meek should be able to make hay out of these latest revelations about Rubio, but so far (and yes, its still winter) he has shown no signs of doing so.

When the news came down yesterday about the latest poll, we wrote that Crist should declare that he became an independent sooner rather than later (the deadline is at the end of next month).  Nate Silver over at 538 surveys the governor's various options, and comes out saying the same thing.

Marco Rubio has come a remarkable long way in less than a year on the campaign trail.  Perhaps the best day of his year was yesterday, when the Democrat leaning (or so we are told) Public Polling Institute survey showed him a  walloping 32% ahead of Charlie Crist in their battle for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in Florida.

That poll comes despite the negativity that Rubio encountered recently when there were some embarrassing disclosures ($133 haircuts for a man of the people?) in some credit card expenditures that were leaked to the Miami Herald.

Now the Herald/St. Pete Times are back, with a report by Mark Caputo on how the fiscally conservative touting former House Speaker pushed for more than $250 million in spending for his home district between 2005-2008.    Caputo writes:

The amount of budget money connected to Rubio attests to his skill as a lawmaker but also contrasts with his campaign image as a tight-fisted spending hawk crusading against "earmarks'' that have plagued the budget process in Washington.

Rubio wouldn't comment and his campaign referred questions to consultant Albert Martinez, who worked in the House under Rubio. Martinez said Rubio tried to cut taxes and spending, not increase them.

"Marco Rubio's a limited-government conservative," Martinez said. "He's not a no-government conservative."

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