Crist: ‘Can You Even Imagine Not Hugging?’

by Katherine Connell

That would be as unthinkable to Charlie Crist, apparently, as retiring from politics. Even a contagious cold can’t keep him out of the arms of Floridians whose votes he wants, according to a new Washington Post profile:

Charlie Crist doesn’t take to bed when he gets sick. He takes three Red Bulls, two cups of coffee, a glass of Mountain Dew, Sudafed and cough drops. Then, he discards the box of Mucinex his 81-year-old father suggested he take, pushes through the back door of a Fort Myers restaurant and wraps his arms around his Democratic supporters.

“I can’t help it; I have to hug,” he says afterward, when asked whether he worries about passing on his cold to voters. “Can you even imagine not hugging?”

Crist certainly couldn’t imagine it back on Feb. 10, 2009. Five years ago to the day, in this very town, the then-Republican governor introduced President Obama to a roaring crowd, threw his support behind the $787 billion economic stimulus bill and then — in classic Crist style — embraced the president in what Stephen Colbert dubbed a “terrorist nipple bump.”

It’s not news that Crist sees himself as something of a hug connoisseur. In his recently released campaign memoir, he described that infamous embrace with President Obama this way:

“The new president leaned forward and gave me a hug. Reach. Pull. Release. As hugs go, it wasn’t anything special. It was over in a second — less than that. It was the kind of hug that says, ‘Hey, good to see you, man. Thanks for being here.’ It was the kind of hug I’d exchanged with thousands of thousands and Floridians over the years . . . reach, pull, release — just like that.”

(Crist said last week that criticism of the hug by Republicans was motivated by racism.)

Florida voters seem to like his hands-on approach. Crist led Republican governor Rick Scott 46 percent to 38 percent in Quinnipiac poll released a couple of weeks ago.