By Terrence McCoy | Follow Washington Post reporter on Twitter
To understand why Florida gubernatorial candidate Democrat Charlie Crist insisted on having a fan blowing on him during the yesterday's debate with Republican Rick Scott, which almost stopped the whole show in its tracks, thus earning the hashtag #fangate, you need to know something about Crist and sweat.
One of the stranger moments of my reporting career arrived at 6 a.m. on a day in late 2012 in St. Petersburg, Fla. I was doing a lengthy profile of Florida governor Charlie Crist, who had just campaigned exhaustively for Barack Obama and was mulling another run at the governor's mansion. I knew Crist was a exercise fanatic, and on something of a whim, I had asked him if he wanted to pump iron together.
Crist, who can rarely turn down an opportunity for press, said he did. He told me to meet him at his downtown apartment building, overlooking Tampa Bay, at 6 a.m. "We'll get a workout in," he cooed.
It's difficult to pinpoint the strangest thing about working out with Charlie Crist, a man of boundless fastidiousness who will do almost anything to keep from looking frazzled. Maybe it was the fact that, despite the early hour, Crist had already lacquered his smooth cheeks in a healthy sheen of Brut aftershave. Or maybe it was that Crist, who was sucking on an Altoid, wore teal flip flops while working out. But what I recall most was that Crist, even when red-faced and benching 170 pounds, didn't sweat. Not one bead. It was miraculous.
Charlie Crist, burdened with an almost pathological disdain for humanity's untidiness, hates to sweat. This trait runs deep, and it was laid bare again last night in an utterly bizarre and totally hilarious bit of political theater that would only happen in Florida. Crist, who claimed to have something called "temperature issues" that can only be "addressed" with a fan, had installed a fan at his feet before the debate.
This was not to Republican Gov. Rick Scott's liking for reasons that have not yet been fully explained. Scott refused to debate under any condition that would be fanned, giving life to what is now known as #fangate.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have an extremely peculiar situation right now," the moderator said. " … We have been told that Gov. Scott will not be participating in this debate. Gov. Crist has asked to have a fan — a small fan — placed underneath his podium. The rules that I was given by the Scott campaign says there should be no fan." He paused. "Somehow, there is a fan there."
Indeed there was.
Let's be very clear about something. With Crist, there's always a fan. This is a matter that has long been discussed and observed in Florida. There's even a Twitter account called "Charlie Crist's Fan" that has blown out tweets since 2010 and hails itself as "Tanman's only friend. I go wherever he goes. I keep him calm, cool and sweat-free. My job demands that I be discreet as f—."
It's no easy task being that discreet.
Sometimes it works.
And sometimes it doesn't.
The fans have long been a key aspect of the Charlie Crist ethos. Once, on a trade mission to Europe, the Tampa Bay Times reported he spent $320 just on portable electric fans. "Fans are a staple at public appearances for Crist, who is conscious of not letting people see him sweat," the report said.
It's actually pretty remarkable sometimes. Even when tossing the football in the Florida sun, which he loves to do, Crist doesn't show any sweat, the Tampa Bay Times said.
Still, there's always a nagging worry the sweat may get him. So, an aide told a CBS affiliate in 2010, "He travels with his fan, just to make sure he doesn't look sweaty."
His go-to-brand? The same one nestled at his feet Wednesday night: The Vornado Air Circulator.