Crist should admit he is avoiding the president

It was no surprise Gov. Charlie Crist did not attend President Barack Obama’s Jacksonville, Fla., appearance on Monday. Crist, a Republican, is trying to distance himself from the Democratic president, but what’s alarming is that he claimed he did not know Obama was in the state.

“Where was he?” Crist asked during a press conference Tuesday. “First I’ve known of it.”

Crist was given an opportunity to explain himself after a Cabinet meeting, but he stood by his claim. “Explain that comment? Is it unclear?” he said. “I didn’t know that he was in the state.”

Finally, when asked a third time, Crist said he knew Obama was coming but didn’t know his itinerary, according to The Associated Press.

Crist’s comments are hard to believe. He should admit that he wants to distance himself from Obama rather than play dumb. Obama visiting his state is definitely something Crist’s aides would have told him.

If Crist honestly did not know, then it’s time to clean house in his staff.

While Obama was honoring sailors and Marines in Jacksonville, Crist was attending a celebration at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood.

On Tuesday, Obama visited Arcadia to announce a $3.4 billion national energy plan. According to the AP, Crist could not attend because of a Cabinet meeting.

However, Crist had no qualms about rescheduling a Cabinet meeting for Obama’s visit in February. Crist got into trouble for getting too close to Obama at a Fort Myers rally when he showed support for the federal stimulus bill by giving the president a hug.

Crist’s opponent for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, has used the infamous hug as ammunition to win support from the Republican base.

Though Crist’s victory seemed a given a few months ago, Rubio is gaining ground. In August, a Quinnipiac University poll had Crist with 55 percent of the vote, while Rubio had 26 percent. Another poll released last week had Crist with 50 percent and Rubio with 35 percent.

Crist tried to defend the hug earlier this month.

“The man’s the president of the United States of America,” he told the St. Petersburg Times. “He’s all our president. And when the president comes to your state for the first time after he gets elected, I’m a civil guy, and I’m going to try to do what I believe is right all the time.”

It looks as if Crist’s opinions have changed with recent events. It’s ridiculous to think he did not know Obama was in the state. Rather than feigning ignorance, Crist should admit he’s distancing himself from Obama.