"Charlie Crist was the only prominent Republican in the country to campaign with Barack Obama before the stimulus passed, on behalf of the stimulus."
Marco Rubio on Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 in an interview with Fox News
Crist the only Republican to campaign with Obama for stimulus, Rubio claims
We've noticed a pattern in Marco Rubio's charges about Gov. Charlie Crist. Sometimes he criticizes Crist for supporting the stimulus. Other times, he criticizes Crist for supporting the stimulus and mentions that Crist hugged a Democrat who supported the stimulus (the president). And sometimes, he criticizes Crist for supporting the stimulus, mentions that Crist hugged a Democrat who supported it, and says Crist took the legs out from under Republicans who were pushing for an alternative.
We suspect Rubio might repeat the attack one or two more times before the August primary.
Here's a typical Rubio claim, from his Feb. 17, 2010 appearance on Fox News.
"Charlie Crist was the only prominent Republican in the country to campaign with Barack Obama before the stimulus passed, on behalf of the stimulus," Rubio told interviewer Martha MacCallum.
Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, commonly called the stimulus, Feb. 13, 2009. The president signed the bill into law four days later at an event in Denver. (You can read PolitiFact's work about the stimulus here.)
And as most everyone in Florida knows by now, Crist supported passing the stimulus, lobbied members of the state's congressional delegation to vote for it, and appeared at a town hall meeting with Obama in Fort Myers on Feb. 10, 2009. Crist earned our Pants On Fire rating for claiming that he "didn't endorse" the stimulus.
In the Fox interview, Rubio attempted to set some pretty specific boundaries to his claim. The key phrases for us are "prominent Republican," "campaign with," and "before the stimulus passed."
So by Rubio's logic, while California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did support the stimulus, and continues to defend it, he never physically campaigned with Obama to drum up support for the bill. Connecticut Republican Gov. Jodi Rell also supported the stimulus -- she along with Schwarzenegger, Crist and Vermont Republican Gov. Jim Douglas signed a letter urging its passage -- but like Schwarzenegger, Rell did not appear at a rally with Obama.
We're not sure if it's completely fair to exclude those Republicans, but as we chew on that, let's see what else is out there.
Before the stimulus passed Congress on Feb. 13, Obama held five campaign-style events:
- Two events in Illinois on Feb. 12;
- An event in Springfield, Va., on Feb. 11;
- The Fort Myers event;
- A town hall meeting in Elkhart, Ind. on Feb. 9.
We scoured the transcripts for each event looking for signs of Republican support. One of the Illinois events included Ray LaHood, a former Republican congressman. But LaHood is Obama's transportation secretary, so he really doesn't count. That event also included Republican U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock. But Schock voted against the stimulus bill.
Indiana's town hall included Michigan GOP Rep. Fred Upton, but like Schock, he voted against the stimulus.
That leaves Crist's appearance with Obama in Fort Myers.
"I want to give a special thanks to your Governor, Charlie Crist, for joining us here today," Obama said at the Fort Myers rally. "The thing about governors is they understand our economic crisis in a way that maybe sometimes folks a little more removed don't understand. They're on the front lines dealing with the economy every single day. They're having to make choices about the budget every single day. They know what it means to balance a budget when revenues are short and more and more people are asking for help. And Governor Crist shares my conviction that creating jobs and turning this economy around is a mission that transcends party. And when the town is burning, you don't check party labels -- everybody needs to grab a hose. And that's what Charlie Crist is doing right here today."
But that's not the only campaigning Obama did.
On Feb. 2, 2009, Obama hosted Vermont's Douglas at the White House to discuss the stimulus. Before the meeting, Douglas and Obama spoke briefly to reporters. Here's part of what Douglas had to say:
"The House of Representatives has passed a bill, and we look forward to working with your administration, with the senators and members of the House to fashion a piece of legislation that fulfills the goals that we have articulated.
"I know there are some differences of opinion on some of the elements. And if I were writing it, it might be a little different. If you were writing it, it might be a little different. But the essence of a recovery package is essential to get our nation's economy moving."
Douglas' comments were carried on cable news channels and included in an Associated Press story and later were picked up by the New York Times in a front-page article. (You can watch the interaction here. Sorry, no hug.)
Douglas recently talked about his support for the stimulus with CNN.
"What I said then is what I think most governors believe, that we might like it a little different," he told CNN's Candy Crowley. "Frankly, I was hoping there would be a little more for infrastructure, but -- but it was a package of relief that the states need urgently at a time when our state budgets were collapsing and we were facing the prospect of drastic cuts in state services or increases in taxes that wouldn't be fair or sustainable. So a recovery package was appropriate to stimulate the economy at that time last year."
That prompted Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who was on the same same show with Douglas, to jump in.
"Jim (Douglas) was -- Jim was great on this," Patrick, a Democrat, said. "As was Governor Crist -- very, very helpful."
And that brings us back to Rubio's boundaries.
Is Douglas prominent? As one of 24 Republican governors, Douglas certainly qualifies.
Did he campaign with Obama? They held a media availability that was broadcast on CNN and CNBC.
Was it before the stimulus passed? No doubt about it.
We should note that Maine's two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins , announced their support for the stimulus on Feb. 6, 2009, a week before the bill was passed. But they, like Schwarzenegger and Rell, did not attend any of the five campaign-style events.
Yes, Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the federal stimulus bill. Not one House Republican voted for it. And at least five Republican governors -- including Sarah Palin of Alaska and Rick Perry of Texas -- urged the bill's defeat.
But Rubio is stretching the truth by portraying Crist as a lone wolf.
Four Republican governors announced their support of the stimulus, and three Republican senators (the third being then-Republican Arlen Specter) voted for the bill.
The distinction with Crist is that Obama decided to hold a rally in Florida and not California. Rubio said Crist was the "only prominent Republican in the country to campaign with Barack Obama before the stimulus passed, on behalf of the stimulus." But Obama met with Vermont's Republican governor who then promoted the stimulus in nationally televised remarks.
So while Rubio is right that Crist was an unusual Republican leader in endorsing the stimulus at a public event, he is wrong to say Crist was the only one. We rate his statement Half True.