Halloween weekend a year ago, two Republican presidential candidates were effectively going door-to-door for Gov. Rick Scott, then in the homestretch of his re-election campaign against Democrat Charlie Crist.
While kids were still sorting through their candy bags, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were campaigning alongside Scott across Southwest Florida.
Now struggling to join the top tier of a crowded Republican presidential field, Rubio and Christie a year ago displayed some of the glibness that has marked the pair in recent debates — including this week’s CNBC exchange in Colorado.
But it was Crist-bashing that was the common theme then.
At the sprawling retirement community of Sun City Center, Rubio recalled that he served as House speaker for the first two years of Crist’s term as Republican governor.
“If you think the Republican Charlie Crist was bad, imagine what Democrat Charlie Crist would be,” Rubio said.
Christie, who steered $19 million to Scott’s campaign as Republican Governors Association chairman, joined Florida’s governor in Naples the day after last Halloween.
“There are only two kids of people who get involved in politics,” Christie told those at a Scott rally. “Those who want to do something and those who want to be something.”
Scott was a favorite last fall for the future lineup of GOP presidential contenders. Along with Christie and Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (oops, he’s no longer running) made frequent appearances with Scott.
For those not watching the World Series tonight, here are some things to watch from Florida’s Republican contenders, in alphabetical order:
**Jeb Bush: The former Florida governor began the race as the establishment favorite, but has slipped in the polls — even plunging to single digits in his home state in one recent survey. Last week, the Bush campaign slashed staff and reduced salaries after weaker-than-expected fundraising. After two solid but not memorable debate performances and months of ridicule from Trump about being “low energy,” there’s pressure on Bush to reassure the GOP establishment and donor base by appearing strong and perhaps even “joyful.”
**Ben Carson: The West Palm Beach resident has risen steadily in the polls and even surpassed Trump in one survey this week. He’ll likely get more attention from Trump and more scrutiny from CNBC moderators tonight. Don’t be surprised if the other GOP candidates lay off, however, because Republican voters clearly like Carson. Tonight those Carson fans will get an extended chance to confirm or second-guess their feelings.
**Marco Rubio: Rubio has moved ahead of mentor Bush in most polls and is vying to become the clear leader in the GOP’s establishment primary to determine the leading alternative to political outsiders Trump and Carson. Rubio has generally avoided clashes with Trump, Bush and other rivals. But his Senate absenteeism has come under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike and will likely come up tonight.
** Donald Trump: He has defied the laws of political gravity for four months, so blog posts suggesting what he needs to do or what to expect from him should be taken with a 44-pound bag of salt. Talking about his polling success has been a major part of Trump’s campaign so far, so it’ll be interesting to see how he interacts with Carson now that Carson has moved ahead of Trump in recent Iowa polls and is getting closer in national polls.