It’s no mystery why former Florida Rep. Charlie Crist wants to hold public office. There’s no shortage of people who’ve chosen politics over legitimate work, for which, like Crist, they have neither talent nor stomach. The mystery is why Democrat primary voters keep coughing up this political hairball, as they did in Florida’s recent primaries. This time they’re sending Charlie to compete against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in November. May as well enter a cow in the Kentucky Derby.
Crist long ago forfeited any right to be taken seriously by reason of his, uh, ideological dexterity and his total separation of principle and practice. Name any controversial issue facing the nation — abortion, crime and punishment, offshore drilling, gay rights, taxes, gun control, Obamacare — and Charlie has come down hard on both sides of it during his dreary and achievement-free 30-year political career. The positions he takes are always final — until further notice. A note passed in study hall has more effect and more permanence than a Charlie Crist position paper.
Crist enjoyed some electoral success early in his career as a Republican. Beginning in 1992, Charlie began a fast ride up the Florida political food chain, starting as a state senator and making stops at state education commissioner, attorney general, and finally, in 2006, to the surprise of many, governor. While Crist won these elections, asking what he accomplished in any of them only fetches a blank stare. In these offices he barely got his office chair warm before he began running for the next office. You see, Charlie isn’t interested in performing the duties of the offices he wins; he just likes running for them. In his four years as governor, there were more sightings of Elvis Presley in Tallahassee than there were of Crist at work in the governor’s office. He spent most of his first two years as governor on the fool’s errand of angling to be on the 2008 presidential ticket as vice president. (Yes, Charlie actually thought he had a chance to be a heartbeat away, and that tells you something about his judgment.) He spent most of the next two years running for a U.S. Senate seat, which he wound up losing by a lot.
With each statewide loss, the expectation among reasonable people is that this is the end of the doleful Crist chapters in Florida politics. But no, here he is again.
It was during his term as governor that Crist began to tack left, a position change that led to his political fortunes tanking and to all the party shifting that followed. Since 2010, Charlie has changed political parties about as fast as William Tecumseh Sherman went through Georgia, though to less effect. In the short space between 2010 and 2012, he went from being a self-styled Reagan Republican to a self-styled Obama Democrat, with a short spell as an independent when the upstart Marco Rubio drove him out of the Republican Party by routing him in the 2010 primaries for a U.S. Senate seat. This lightning-fast political 180 led to cases of whiplash among those attempting to keep up with it. It’s discussed in the political science literature as the Charlie Crist Dismount.
All this party and position flexibility has led to Crist being the only politician in Florida, perhaps in the nation, to have lost statewide elections as a Republican, as a Democrat, and as an independent. This would be more than enough to discourage a lesser man, or at least one capable of being embarrassed. But not our Charlie. He’s the political undead. With each statewide loss, the expectation among reasonable people is that this is the end of the doleful Crist chapters in Florida politics. But no, here he is again. Apparently, there will always be an “again” with Charlie until the day he stands before his Maker. (And won’t that be an interesting interview.)
In his latest of many political incarnations, which has lasted for a bit, Crist now claims to be a progressive Democrat. And he whoops up all the attendant leftist policy positions this designation requires, almost all of which are out of step with a majority of Florida voters. Like most elected Democrats, Crist treats abortion as a sacrament, calling the Florida law prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks “barbaric.” DeSantis’ keeping the Florida economy and schools open during the COVID overreaction was popular and greatly benefited Floridians. Crist wanted the state to remain locked down, as did his chosen running mate, Karla Hernández-Mats, head of the Miami-Dade teachers union (a truly eccentric choice at a time when the large, pissed-off parents voting bloc is beyond tired of teachers unions and their tactics). (READ MORE from Larry Thornberry: DeSantis Candidates Win for Children and Parents)
Crist wants more gun-control laws while DeSantis takes the Second Amendment to mean what it says. Crist blames everything but the Biden administration’s incontinent government spending for inflation and has often called global warming the biggest threat facing Florida and the planet. The latter is a matter well down the list of things Florida voters are concerned about. And it doesn’t help that Crist has said that DeSantis supporters have “hate in their heart.” He also defended President Joe Biden calling Republicans “semi-fascist,” saying that Biden was just being “honest.”
All this provides an advantage to DeSantis.
Also self-defeating is Crist’s full-court praise of Biden, whose popularity in Florida over the past years has mostly languished south of 40 percent, sometimes south of 30. (DeSantis is north of 50.) The morning after winning the Florida primary, Crist took to the air on CNN’s New Day and launched into a gag-inducing presidential suck-up. Read on and marvel.
After setting the tone by calling Biden “great man,” Crist went on to croon, “Look what Joe Biden has done for … our country. He continued:
He’s been exceptional…. Look what he’s done for the world. I mean what’s happening in Ukraine. Him bringing NATO together. New members to NATO — Finland, Sweden. It’s remarkable…. I mean, what other president could have done what he’s done?… He’s been phenomenal. Gas prices are down. Inflation is trending down. Democracy is trending up.
He capped off his lunatic Biden rant with this peroration: “He’s a good man. He’s a great man. He is a great president.”
Most Democrats obliged to face the voters this November bob and weave and lean toward the exit when asked if they want Biden to campaign for them. Not our Charlie. He said: “I can’t wait for him to get down here. I need his help, I want his help, and he’s — he’s the best I’ve ever met.” If Joe Biden is the best Crist has ever met, he really needs to get out more.
Anyone attempting to counter this insane take on the least popular president in living memory would have to answer the question facing the mosquito in the nudist colony: “Where do I begin?” This isn’t going to play well with a majority of Florida voters. And as Charlie has spent most of his life in Florida and in Florida politics, he must know this. His embarrassing infatuation with Biden and his bizarre running-mate choice suggest that he knows he’s going to be skunked in November and is really angling for a job in what’s left of the Biden administration or the national Democrat Party. He doesn’t even appear to be trying to win, not that he could if he gave it his all. His best shot ain’t what it used to be.
Since 2016 until this week, Crist held a seat in the U.S. House representing his hometown of St. Petersburg. He resigned to run for governor full time. In some unintended humor, the Politico article states, “The seat will remain vacant until the November election.” Many will insist the seat has been vacant since Charlie won it because he wasn’t seen at work in Congress any more than he was in any other offices voters have been foolish enough to elect him to.
Crist won his last congressional election narrowly in what was then a Democrat-friendly district. Redistricting has since made it much more red. So, Charlie must have felt he had to jump into the governor’s race as running for office is the only thing he knows. And how embarrassing it would be to lose a congressional seat that still contains much of the only home base he has left. So, into a hopeless race he leapt.
We can’t know what troubles DeSantis’ sleep, if anything. There’s no shortage of difficult problems and tendentious issues facing the governor of the nation’s third largest state. But we can be sure that DeSantis, popular in Florida and in national Republican circles for strong conservative leadership, is not losing a wink over having to run against this more than faintly ridiculous character.