Of the two major Republicans hoping to replace him, Attorney General Charlie Crist has an ability to excite a room much like Bush, signing autographs, posing for pictures and delivering speeches that fire-up crowds.

Then there's Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, who is trying to win over voters by showing he's stronger on issues. He was quick to roll out detailed policy proposals and he often stops and debates voters on issues like insurance and standardized testing in schools, never trying to tell them what they want to hear, but rather what he feels is best for Florida.

"They both are going with their strengths," said Jamie Miller, a political consultant and a former executive director at the Republican Party of Florida. "That's Charlie's personality and leadership skills and Tom's policy and that's what people are seeing in those two campaigns."

While each candidate is promising voters he'll carry on the policies and traditions of Bush, who's barred from seeking a third term, there are clear differences between the two.

Gallagher's campaign is trying harder to make voters see there is a distinction between the candidates and has questioned whether Crist is ready to be governor. He's also making a greater effort to appeal to the far right of his party, saying he's stronger on conservative social and moral issues and meeting often with conservative Christian leaders.

Crist, with a comfortable lead in the polls and a money advantage, often campaigns as if there's no one else in the race, sticking to a positive message on three main themes: improving schools, lowering taxes and keeping Florida safe.

Polls have had Crist ahead by more than 20 points and he has raised $10.6 million compared to Gallagher's $7.7 million. The winner of the Sept. 5 primary will face the Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis or state Sen. Rod Smith, in November.

"Crist has used his status as attorney general to confront issues like crime, sexual predators, gouging during hurricanes - high-profile issues where it's very difficult to take an opposing view," said Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida political science professor. "Whether fairly or unfairly, Gallagher is dealing with some of these insurance issues and people are not excited about insurance companies right now."

Gallagher, the former insurance commissioner whose current office serves as an advocate for policy holders, takes credit for setting up a homeowners insurance catastrophe fund after Hurricane Andrew. He says he helped keep insurance available in Florida as companies were leaving. And in the past two years, he has been active in seeking a solution to the crisis created by eight hurricanes affecting the state over two seasons.

And he doesn't back away from the issue. While campaigning door-to-door in Valrico, one homeowner angrily asked why more wasn't being done to control rising rates. Instead of giving a politically friendly answer, Gallagher debated with the man for several minutes, basically telling him why rising rates are a fact of life in Florida and why the problem wasn't going to be solved easily.

It's typical Gallagher, who jumps at opportunities to discuss policy in detail. His staff jokes that if you ask Gallagher the time, he tells you how to build a watch.

Crist's approach is more simple, but effective. He will stop to say hello to everyone from a hotel doorman to a top campaign contributor, with a message that he is working for them as attorney general and will do the same as governor. He connects with his eyes, a warm smile and a hand on an arm and leaves people - Democrat, Republican and anyone in between - feeling like he cares without having to explain positions.

While coming across as gentle, he reminds people that he's tough on crime, pointing to a truth in sentencing law he passed as a senator that earned him the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie." He tells almost every crowd he sees that his top priority as governor is to pass a law that will keep violent criminals behind bars if they violate probation.

Gallagher supporters, though, say their candidate has meat and Crist is all fluff. And even when Crist announces policy proposals, such as a plan to raise teachers' salaries or to increase adoption, the Gallagher campaign claims he's stealing their ideas.

Rep. Ed Homan says he likes both men and has worked with each, but he's supporting Gallagher because he thinks he's a stronger issues candidates. Gallagher can work with people to build a consensus that's best for everybody, he said.

"Crist is a very skilled politician. He reminds me of Bill Clinton. I got to meet him and he had a charisma that was just unbelievable," Homan said. "Charlie's that kind of guy."

While behind in the polls, Gallagher has been more successful in appealing to the party's conservative Christian base and is hoping that support will tighten the race.

"I don't think Charlie Crist is shooting straight about who he is when it comes to issues like gambling, abortion and gay marriage," said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council. "He's being politically expedient. He's saying what he needs to be elected."

Stemberger joins Gallagher in criticizing Crist for taking contributions from gambling interests, including developer and casino owner Donald Trump, and for not campaigning against a ballot measure to allow slot machines at South Florida pari-mutuel facilities.

Gallagher, who in a previous run for governor described himself as "pro-choice," says he now is absolutely against abortion and would sign a law to ban it outright if given the chance. Crist says he opposes abortion, but he doesn't favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized the procedure.

Gallagher, 62, says his attitude changed when his son was born seven years ago. Gallagher also often stresses that he has a child. Crist, 49, is childless.

"Crist's strategy seems to me to be more of a general election strategy. He's tried to appeal to a much broader constituency," said Darryl Paulson, a University of South Florida political science professor. "If Crist should win the Republican primary, he would be better positioned for the general election than Gallagher, who is perceived as too far to the right."

Jason Dimitris, an assistant U.S. attorney in Miami who previously worked on identity theft and technology crimes for the statewide prosecutor's office, said he is a Democrat who was won over by Crist's management style.

"I'm a big Crist supporter because I was very impressed with the office he ran," Dimitris said. "I'm confident that with him as the governor, he will run a very efficient, effective office there, too."

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