South Floridians, lock up your wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts. Billy-Bob Clinton is coming to town. Our former groper-in-chief and lifetime Democrat will be in Miami Friday evening to give a campaign speech for rookie Democrat Charlie Crist.
Crist is, to borrow a phrase attributed to the late Hubert Humphrey, pleased as punch to have the former boy-president campaign for him. “I’m over the moon,” Crist said. (I’ve always suspected this of Charlie.)
Crist, Florida’s former Republican governor, who wants to become Florida’s next Democrat governor, wasn’t always so giddy about the man from Hope (Arkansas, that is). In 1998, about a thousand political lifetimes ago for Charlie, Republican Crist was calling on Clinton to resign the presidency. This was after it had become widely known that political science student Monica Lewinsky was studying the executive branch. Bill’s. In the Oval Office. Remember the thong, the blue dress, the pizza, the cigar, and the rest of the dreary stuff more suited to “The Jerry Springer Show” than to 1600.
Then a Republican U.S. Senate candidate (incumbent Democrat Bob Graham cleaned his clock that year), Crist called on Clinton to step down because he (Clinton) had “shattered the confidence and trust of the American people…the best thing he could do for the country would be to step down from the office of president.” So, who says Charlie has always been wrong?
Crist was crooning a different tune when announcing the Clinton visit this week. “President Clinton’s been fighting on the front lines for years on the issues we care about: equal pay for women, raising the minimum wage, expanding health care to everyone who needs it, and making sure that everyone has a fair shot at success. He’s better than anyone at explaining why what we’re doing matters. I’m looking forward to kicking off the final two months of this campaign with him.”
Another slick pivot and dismount by the most fluid politician in the lower 48.
No one should be surprised that Charlie has changed his mind about Clinton. He’s changed his mind about everything else, so why should he not evolve on Billy-Bob? And surely Crist recognizes a soul mate in Slick Willie. Perhaps these two old hustlers, after rousing and shaking down the marks on Friday, can reminisce about the bad-old days. They’re a matched pair. They’re both so slick you could make rides of them at a water park. They’re both so oily, if either of them campaign in your home you’ll have to get the carpets cleaned afterward.
Crist’s campaign for governor surely needs a bit of help. As happened in his race against Marco Rubio for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, Crist’s early large lead has disappeared. Most polls over the last two weeks show incumbent Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott with a small, within-the-margin-of-error lead. The latest poll to be released, a Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/University of Florida poll, shows Scott with 40.9 percent of the vote, Crist with 35.7, and Libertarian Adrian Wyllie with 6.3. When Scott and Crist go head-to-head, it’s Scott 43.7 and Crist 37.6. So for Crist’s sake, Billy-Bob better have some fine soul and hambone to pour over the faithful. With two months before Election Day, Crist’s prospects are steadily receding.
Drilling down into the numbers of the most recent poll, we find that only 35.4 percent of likely voters say Crist is honest and ethical, while 53 percent say he is not. Even 29 percent of Democrats say he can’t be trusted.
But tarry a while, Republicans, before high-fiving each other. Scott doesn’t do much better. Only 39 percent of likely voters describe Scott as honest and ethical, while 50.7 percent say he isn’t. Roughly one in four Republicans say Scott can’t be trusted. This is a better performance than Crist’s. But I’d hate to have to make a living on the difference. And Republicans are right to be nervous about betting an election on an edge like this. The numbers illustrate the current dilemma of the two major parties. Republicans are stuck with an unpopular incumbent. And the Democrats’ bench is so weak they have to rely on a recent and unprincipled retread from the other party.
Scott was seen this week campaigning in South Florida with Jack Nicklaus. I know nothing about golf, and care even less. Though even I know that Nicklaus is more popular than another well-known golfer that Crist says he would be happy to have campaign for him.
Wow. What a cast. Charlie Crist. Bill Clinton. Barack Obama. Florida Democrats this year appear to be playing with a deck made up entirely of jokers. I wonder if Joe Biden has some time on his calendar between now and Nov. 4.
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