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Curiouser and Curiouser

The pear-shaped Senate race in Florida.

By 6.22.10

TAMPA -- The Brits have a great expression for when affairs go out of control. When things unravel they're said to have "gone a bit pear-shaped." This is what's happened to the current U.S. Senate race in Florida, where it's not only difficult to tell who's on first, it's not even clear who's contending to be the Democrat in the race.

The race has been in focus a couple of times. First it was the then popular RINO Governor Charlie Crist who was going to win this seat on cruise control. Establishment endorsements and cash showed up big-time for Crist when he announced. Then conservative former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio ran a great retail campaign based on conservative themes of limited government, personal freedom, capitalism over government bureaucrats, and taking it to our enemies.

Rubio pledged to oppose the Obama administration's leftward lurch, which he says threatens to change the very nature of America in ways Americans don't want. This proved so popular with Florida's Republicans, with independents, and even some Democrats, that Crist's 50 point lead over Rubio turned into a 20 to 30 point deficit, and it appeared Rubio would cruise to the Republican nomination and easily beat Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek in the general, the only Democrat in the race during this period of clarity.

Then things went out of focus again. Facing sure defeat in the Republican primary, Crist, after promising countless times that he would not leave the Republican Party and run as an independent, left the Republican Party and is running as an independent. He stopped trying to impersonate a conservative and started groping every liberal position on issues like Bill Clinton used to… But, I digress.

About the same time, a really rich guy and former Republican got into the race on the Democratic side and started spending his money like Barack Hussein Obama spends ours. He's now in a tie with Meek. All this spending and political cross-dressing has put the Florida race back out of focus.         

Right now the strongest candidate for Florida Democrats may be the mercurial Crist (I-Charlie), a registered (if not functioning) Republican until April 30. Crist holds a slight lead over conservative Rubio in most polls, and a large one over any registered Democrat so far mentioned for the job.  

The two guys with Ds after their names contending for the spot include Meek, an aged-in-the-barrel liberal who inherited his congressional seat from his mother and who is a faithful enabler of the Obama agenda. He voted for ObamaCare, cap and trade, the slush fund, the whole disaster. The other is Jeff Greene, a kind of anti-real-estate investor who became incomprehensively rich through a legal though toxic investment vehicle that amounts to a bet that people can't make their mortgage payments.

In addition to making a fortune out of personal misery, Greene's personal life has its downright quirky side. At Greene's 2007 wedding his best man was Mike Tyson (prompting the obvious question -- who the hell was the worst?). He was Hollywood Madam Heidi Fleiss's landlord when he lived in California, which was up until 2008, leaving Greene open to the charge of being a carpetbagger.

Greene is not only nearly as peculiar a Democrat as Crist was a Republican, but he has also run for Congress once and lost. In 1982, in California, as a Republican. How you work this biography into a narrative suitable for the Party of Carin' n' Compassion is anyone's guess. Florida Democratic insiders are squirming because Greene and Meek are currently in a dead heat in the polls and they don't want to go into the general election with Greene atop their ticket. At least Meek, an African American, would increase black turnout and help Democrats in other contests. Polls show either Rubio or Crist would beat either one of these guys badly.  

That's why Crist, who as recently as early spring was trying to impersonate Ronald Reagan in an attempt to out-conservative Rubio, and is now rushing flank-speed to the left, may be the Florida Democrat's best choice. Crist, who'll dance with anyone who'll advance his political career, is doing nothing to discourage this kind of thinking. He's even hinted he might caucus with the Democrats if he's elected. 

Rubio has said he wants to go to Washington to throw a spanner into the sprocket of the Obama agenda. Far better for Obama and his merry band to have the pliable Crist in the Senate than Rubio. And neither of the real Ds, who are trashing each other in their campaigns (they both appear to be right about each other), have much of a chance in center-right Florida in November.

Here's just an abbreviated list of Crist's positions which have "evolved" since he gave up the fiction of being a Republican:

• Even as a Republican Crist was both for and against drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Post-Republican and Post-BP, Crist says he wants a ban on Gulf drilling in the Florida constitution. 

• Competing for the Republican nomination with pro-life Rubio, Crist talked pro-life. Post-Republican he first removed all pro-life material from his website and then vetoed a bill put through by Republican Florida legislators that would have required a woman to have and review an ultra-sound test before deciding to have an abortion. He called the requirement "mean-spirited." No mention of what he calls abortion now.   

• As a Republican, Crist wanted tough restrictions on travel to Cuba. After going bare, he wanted them loosened.

Before the spring session of the Florida Legislature, Republican Crist wanted legislation that would bring some accountability into public education in Florida by tying at least part of teachers' compensation to their students' performance. After the session, no-party Charlie vetoed a bill that provided just that.    

• The Republican Crist was in favor of the military retaining it's "don't ask-don't tell" policy on gays. Now openly gay troops are cool.

• Now that he needs Democratic votes, the only kind he can compete for in any number, Crist has decided that he's against Florida's ban on adoption by gays. He used to favor it.   

• Against card-check while a Republican, Crist is coy about it now, suggesting he would listen to Big Labor's arguments on this one when seeking the endorsement of the Florida AFL-CIO, which went to Meek.

Remarkably, the polls show that Crist is currently getting away with this transparent con-artistry. But the media campaigns to define the candidates haven't been run yet, except for Green's manic spending ($14 million so far, according to media reports), and probably won't be until after Labor Day. So there's every chance that Crist's support will erode. The history of third-party and no-party candidates in America is that major party members tend to go home by Election Day. In Florida in 2010, Rubio's positions are far more mainstream than Crist's. And they last more than a week and a half. So a return of focus favors him in November. But Floridians can look forward to even more political curiosities before it's all sorted out. Could be a long, strange summer.  

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.