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Monday, Oct 20, 2014

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Ad war heats up in governor’s race

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Hampered by lack of cash, likely Democratic nominee for governor Charlie Crist is hitting back with a web ad following a televised attack from Gov. Rick Scott over the Affordable Care Act.

In his response, Crist cites fact-checking by news organizations and calls the Scott attack ad “false, misleading, incorrect.” The Scott ad attacks Crist for his support of the ACA, but repeats widely discredited criticisms of the health reform program.

Scott, meanwhile, posted a new web video Thursday featuring a young cancer patient praising him for the recommendation in his budget for increased cancer research funding in Florida.

Scott included $80 million in his budget proposal, a $30 million increase, most of it aimed at helping cancer research hospitals in Florida attain the National Cancer Institute designation as a comprehensive cancer center. Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is currently the only such center in the state, and one of 41 in the nation.

The increase Scott proposed, if fully enacted by the state Legislature, will bring state funding for cancer research roughly back to its level before cuts in the state budget during the Great Recession.

The web video continues a pattern by Scott of using video from official, taxpayer-funded governor’s office events in his political campaign advertising, a pattern that has drawn criticism from his opponents.

It shows footage of him announcing his cancer research funding proposal at a news conference in Jacksonville, where he was joined by the cancer patient, a 20-year-old University of Florida student.

A Crist campaign spokesman said in a news conference call with reporters Thursday the campaign iniitally will spend “thousands” of dollars to place its ad on-line, and may spend more depending on the reaction to it.

Citing popular aspects of the ACA -- but without actually mentioning the program or President Barack Obama directly -- the ad says, “Truth is, Rick Scott wants to take us back to the days of insurance companies denying coverage for pre-existing conditions -- where women are charged more than men -- and lifetime caps limit care, even on kids with cancer.”

The ACA, also called Obamacare, prohibited lifetime coverage limits included in some health care policies and charging men and women different premiums.

In a conference call with reporters, Crist backer and former state Sen. Dan Gelber said the Crist campaign “is not afraid to hit back” over Scott’s attack ad on the ACA.

“It should be no surprise that in Rick Scott’s world the road to success is being dishonest,” he said, citing the federal investigation that led to Scott’s former hospital company paying a record $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud about a decade ago.

But Crist has raised far less campaign money than Scott, who has announced $4 million worth of ad buys in the last two weeks, including the Obamacare attack ad.

Asked whether finances will limit the campaign’s ability to hit back, Crist spokesman Kevin Cate said, “We don’t have $100 million” -- a reference to the amount Scott has said he might spend on his campaign -- “nor do we have the taxpayer money that Gov. Scott is using to fund his campaign.”

Gelber said the ACA has brought health coverage to half a million Floridians who didn’t formerly have it, and the number would be far higher if Scott had expanded the state’s Medicaid program with federal funding available under the ACA.

He accused Scott of “playing craven politics with people’s lives,” and said, “Rick Scott really does not care about Floridians, and Charlie Crist does.”

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