Our favorite Republican In Name Only has made it official — he’s not even that anymore.
Florida’s Republican in Name Only governor Charlie Crist made it official Thursday. He won’t even be a Republican in name on the ballot in November. He will run for the U.S. Senate as an independent because conservative former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio ran him out of the Republican primary.
Of course, Crist didn’t frame his move this way yesterday. Rather he made yet another attempt to conflate his own self-interest with that of all Floridians. It’s unlikely a large fraction of Florida voters will buy it.
“My decision to run for the United States Senate as a candidate without party affiliation in many ways says more about our nation and our state than it does about me,” Crist unctuously intoned to a small crowd in downtown St. Petersburg gathered to hear his announcement. “Our political system is broken,” he added.
Nonsense on steroids. Crist’s desperate decision to bolt the Republican Party came entirely because Republicans in Florida clearly prefer Rubio, who has run an effective retail campaign based on principles of limited government, free enterprise, a strong national defense, and opposition to the Obama agenda.
Crist tried to counter Rubio’s solid record in the Florida House and Rubio’s conservative campaign with a record as governor that’s all over the ideological map: first being one of the few Republicans to whoop up President Obama’s $787 billion “stimulus” slush fund, then denying he supported it when it became unpopular, then defending his support after it became clear no one believed his claims that he didn’t support it. He’s flip-flopped on other major issues, suiting his position to the political audience he’s trying to cozen at the time. He isn’t called “Wind-sock Charlie” for nothing.
Voters noticed. That’s why Crist trailed Rubio by more than 20 points in most polls before he made the decision to quit a Republican race he couldn’t win. Unlike a few weeks back when he was trying to out-conservative Rubio to compete in that race, Crist is now crooning about the virtues of moderation.
And no, Charlie, the political system in Florida is not broken when it roots out opportunists like you. “Charlie Crist gives moderation a bad name,” said Mort Kondracke on Fox News after Crist’s St. Petersburg séance. “I don’t know where he stands on anything anymore.”
Not to worry, Mort. Floridians don’t know either. And how could they? In the past two years Crist has been for the slush fund, against the slush fund and big government spending, and for the slush fund again. He’s been against drilling for oil off Florida’s coast, for drilling, and now against it again. He was for legislation that would have introduced some accountability in Florida government school education until he was against it and vetoed an accountability bill put through by Florida Republicans. If Charlie Crist has any political principles, they’re written in pencil, not pen.
“For me it’s never been about doing what’s easy,” Crist said. “The easiest thing would have been running for re-election for governor.”
Wrong again. Leaving the governor’s job to run for the Senate is attempting to move from a tough executive post, in which Crist’s performance has been the soul of mediocrity, to a relatively softer touch as one of 535 legislators. A prestigious place to hide for a politician who, like Crist, shows no real interest in policy or taste for hard work. Since Florida’s constitution was changed in 1968 to allow Florida governors to seek a second term, Crist is the first Florida governor not to do so. And he’s bucking a national trend of legislators wearying of trying to achieve anything in the legislative branch and seeking executive office.
Crist’s assertion that he wanted to go to Washington because that’s where he could do the most good for Floridians always had a bit of a hollow ring to it. But it’s consistent with Crist’s entire political career where he’s held offices for a short time, forever seeking the next prize. Crist has always spent as much or more time running for the next office as he has in taking care of the one he held. He’s not worked hard as Florida’s governor, spending more time maneuvering first to become vice president (yes, of the United States), then to become a U.S. Senator, than in matters of state governance. His entire political career could be described as loitering with intent.
Crist trotted out more high-minded reasons why he will run for the Senate as an independent (after saying countless times in countless forums that he would not do so). No point in enumerating them; they’re all bogus. He’s running as an independent because he couldn’t compete with Rubio, and he was looking at his political career ending with the August 24 Florida primary.
Now Crist’s career will almost certainly be over Nov. 2. The problems of running without a political party are formidable. His Republican staff will desert en masse, leaving the campaign to amateurs. The money will dry up. Republicans who gave to him early will ask for their money back. Democrats and Republicans will find their way back to their own parties by Nov. 2, by which date Charlie Crist will be lucky to have as much support as an 11-year-old in a training bra.
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