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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Now we can confirm it, Crist

Here's something that's likely to fuel speculation about how President Obama regards Charlie Crist's Senate bid: Former White House communications director and longtime Obama confidante Anita Dunn announced today that she's severing ties with the Democratic National Committee through the 2010 elections. Her reason: Crist.

Last week, the Florida governor, who recently changed his party affiliation from GOP to independent, hired Dunn's consulting firm, SKD Knickerbocker, to advise his Senate campaign. That's a little awkward for a couple of reasons: One, since leaving the White House, Dunn has been a key adviser at the DNC; and two, Democrats have their own candidate in the Florida Senate race, Rep. Kendrick Meek.

While it's unclear what role, if any, Dunn will play in Crist's campaign,  the Obama adviser tells NBC's Chuck Todd and Mark Murray that she thought it would be best to recuse herself from the DNC. "We all reached the decision this was the cleanest way to avoid problems for the President and Chairman (Tim) Kaine," Dunn said in an email.

Is this a sign that Team Obama is getting behind Crist? For weeks, Democrats have privately wondered if Obama will campaign aggressively for Meek in Florida or if he will keep his distance in hopes of boosting Crist, who has been viewed as an ally by the White House. Asked last week if Obama supports Meek in the race, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs delivered the standard boilerplate answer, telling reporters that Obama always backs the Democratic nominee in any given race.

But if images count for anything in modern politics — and they most certainy do — it's worth noting that Obama has been spotted with Crist much more frequently than he's been photographed with Meek. In the past two weeks alone, the pair shared two different photo-ops as they traveled to Louisiana for briefings on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Obama has been an active campaigner for Senate Democratic nominees this cycle — raising money for Barbara Boxer in California and Harry Reid in Nevada, for example — so if he doesn't show up in Florida soon, that will be a telling sign for Meek's already struggling campaign.

— Holly Bailey is a senior political writer for Yahoo! News.

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