Centrist Florida governor falls through the cracks of a deeply divided GOP
Candidacy sets stage for three-way race for coveted Florida Senate seat, with Governor Charlie Crist favoured to winKonrad Yakabuski
Consider the following comments about this article before reading it:
“I am not so sure this will hurt the Republicans in the long run. Likely in the short run, though. Christ, who is definitely a Republican in behaviour, has said he will continue to vote with the Republicans if elected, and is clearly feeling bullied enough that he will tow the party line after this experience, if elected, which is bad. The irony of all this blacklisting by Republicans is that it is becoming elitist where only a few decide Republican policy and who runs. Only a few decide for the entire party which is less input for the rest. Strange times. Those who care about fairness and justness would really hope this ‘experiment’ by extreme Republicans fails miserably.”
“Just to help out the Globe and its collection of insulated readers, I am helpfully posting a link to the Politico article on Mr.Charlie and his ‘principled’ crusade. I know I am throwing away all that cash from my winnings on that pool I suggested earlier, but I’m just a helper at heart.
Charlie’s chances of winning in November – Slim & None and the bus is all but warmed up as they say.
Charlie’s chances of going out of politics as both a buffoon and a poltroon. Excellent.
I look forward to his forthcoming utter humiliation as a salutatory lesson to all the other poltroons out there in political land. Self-absorption and self-regard are NOT ENOUGH.
You have to both offer something and more importantly BE something.”
Washington — From Friday’s Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Apr. 30, 2010 4:55AM EDT Last updated on Friday, Apr. 30, 2010 10:30AM EDT
It’s Ross Perot in reverse.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s move to quit the Republican Party to run as an independent candidate for the U.S. Senate this fall illustrates just how far the GOP has swung right since Mr. Perot ran for president in 1992.
Back then, Mr. Perot, the hard-right outsider, drained the vote of conservatives who thought the Republicans had moved too far toward the mushy middle. Now, it’s the centrist Mr. Crist who is being chased from a GOP that has fallen under the spell of Tea Party purists.
The end result could be the same, as an ideological schism splits the Republican vote in November’s midterm congressional election.
Mr. Crist, who launched his campaign Thursday as the “people’s candidate” for the prized Florida seat, had been trailing badly in the Republican primary race that pitted him against Tea Party favourite Marco Rubio.
“I haven’t supported an idea because it’s a Republican idea or it’s a Democratic idea. I support ideas that I believe are good ideas for the people,” Mr. Crist charged, insisting that his decision to bolt the party “says more about our nation and our state than it does about me.”
Mr. Crist’s independent candidacy sets the stage for a three-way Senate race with Mr. Rubio, who is now assured of the GOP nomination, and Kendrick Meek, the expected Democratic candidate. A safe Republican seat is suddenly in play with Mr. Crist the favourite to win.
A similar dynamic to the Rubio-Crist duel is unfolding in Republican primaries across the country, as hard-right candidates harness the anger of Tea Party newcomers to recast the party as a radical anti-government formation.
In Senate primaries in Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado, middle-of-the-road GOP stalwarts are seriously threatened by upstarts who would have been dismissed as fringe candidates not long ago.
The GOP has been a sitting duck for such a right-wing takeover, since its ranks were decimated during George W. Bush’s final years in office. But in their quest for purity, the new-breed Republicans may also sacrifice winnability.
“This is potentially very problematic for the Republican Party,” University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith warned in an interview. “By embracing the far right candidate it could be very difficult for them to win in a general election.”
The 53-year-old Mr. Crist, a George Hamilton doppelganger who is a walking billboard for Coppertone, was first elected governor in 2006 and immediately began infuriating Republican hard-liners.
He revoked almost 300 nominations made by his GOP predecessor Jeb Bush, required paper records of all ballots (to avoid a repeat of the presidential 2000 election fiasco in Florida) and extended voting hours in 2008 – all measures favoured by Democrats.
Yes, he opposed gay marriage – a position that earned him an attempted “outing” in the 2009 documentary Outrage – and appointed conservative, anti-abortion judges to the Florida Supreme Court.
But that was not enough, in Republican eyes, to compensate for his biggest sin – embracing President Barack Obama (literally) and endorsing his $787-billion (U.S.) stimulus plan in early 2009.
It was no bear hug – more like an awkward man-embrace as the two gripped each other’s arms as they shook hands. But “the hug” launched the primary career of Mr. Rubio, the 38-year-old son of Cuban exiles and former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, as he seized on the stimulus package, the record federal deficit, bank bailouts and health-care reform as symbols of government gone awry.
“He will certainly have plenty of money,” Florida State University political science professor Robert Crew said of Mr. Rubio. “He will also have the Republican Party get-out-the-vote apparatus on his side and it has traditionally been one of the best in the country.”
There are signs Mr. Rubio may temper his politics to broaden his appeal. He came out this week against a controversial new Arizona law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants. While his Latino roots may have something to do with that, the move was unpopular with some of his Tea Party supporters.
“If he moves to the centre he risks alienating the same people who brought him to the dance,” Prof. Smith opined.
Mr. Crist has also been doing some repositioning. Two weeks ago, he vetoed a state bill that would have eliminated job security for teachers and linked their salaries to student performance on standardized test scores. The move ingratiated him to the teachers’ union, which has been running TV ads thanking him.
Mr. Crist’s decision to slam the door on his party, however self-interested, should be a wake-up call to Republicans across the country as they contemplate how to regain control of Congress and the White House.
“I can confirm what most Floridians already know,” Mr. Crist asserted in announcing his split from the GOP. “Our political system is broken.”
Well, maybe not the system. More like one of its parties.