It’s counter-intuitive. Considering he has lost two statewide races over the last half-decade, and considering he has held every office in Florida except tea-taster and master of the revels while accomplishing nothing in any of them, and considering his political rhetoric is as empty as a tennis ball, reasonable persons would not expect to see former Florida governor Charlie Crist holding public office again.
But wait. If multiple polls are to be believed, Crist will be representing the city of St. Petersburg in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning next year. The latest of these shows Crist with a 3.2 percent lead over Republican incumbent David Jolly. Others have shown him further ahead. Can you imagine it?
Jolly won the seat in a special election in March of 2014 after the death of Congressman Bill Young, who had held the St. Petersburg seat since John Paul Jones was a lieutenant commander. In his two years and change in office, Jolly has established himself as a political moderate (which is what the mainstream media calls Republicans who vote for liberal stuff), drawing scores well below what the average Republican gets from the conservative rating agencies.
Florida District 13 of 2016 is not what the district used to be. Thanks to a redrawing of lines after a lawsuit based on the “Fair Districts” constitutional amendment that Florida voters fell for in 2010, the district has gone from a slight Republican majority to a somewhat larger Democrat majority. To win this seat, Jolly, like another contemporary candidate whom I need not name, would need to get all of the Republican vote, while getting a majority of independents and the odd Democrat (some of them very odd).
But enthusiasm for Jolly among the more conservative St. Petersburg Republicans is less than on a boil. (In fact, some of these consider Jolly a boil on the party’s you-know-what.) They don’t like that he has been less than a warrior on budget cutting, that he supported same-sex marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court discovered a heretofore-unknown right to it, that he has done nothing to help get Planned Parenthood’s snout out of the public trough (shouldn’t it be planned non-parenthood?), and that he lectured those who celebrated when John Boehner left the House speakership. “The honor of John Boehner this morning stands in stark contrast to the idiocy of those members who seek to continually divide us,” Jolly said, unhelpfully, on the day of Boehner’s resignation as speaker.
Jolly has likely cost himself a packet of Republican votes by refusing to support Donald Trump for President. He has continually said he has no plans to vote for Trump. This may win him a few votes among independents, but will surely lose him a larger number of Republicans.
Jolly has not only cheesed off local Republicans, he has lost the support of national Republican groups, the kind that give money to campaigns, when he introduced a bill that would prevent members of Congress from directly soliciting campaign funds. Of course the bill will not see the light of day, and Jolly knew it when he introduced it. Most saw it as pure sanctimony and political theater, part of this long-time former congressional aide and lobbyist’s lame attempt to position himself — be sitting down for this one — as an “outsider.” As a result of this, there is more money from outside groups flowing into Crist’s campaigns than into Jolly’s.
Jolly’s non-support of Trump has caused one of the dopier elements of the campaign, with Crist the Democrat trying to tie the Republican presidential candidate to the Republican, who resists in the manner of those who we used to refer to as “a spinster of this parish.” Jolly claims Crist is the real Trump man, as the Donald donated money to Crist’s campaign back when Crist was describing himself as a Reagan Republican. (This was before he was a Barack Obama Democrat. My sources tell me if Crist fails to capture the Congressional seat, he will run for St. Petersburg City Council as a Jill Stein Vegetarian.)
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee went so far as to run a TV ad which photo-shopped Trump and Jolly together, making it appear the two were the best of pals. Jolly yelled foul, said he has never met Trump, and threatened to sue any TV station that continued to run the bogus ads. The stunt was so shabby and dishonest that the relentlessly leftist Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times, and frequently referred to in conservative circles as the “Tampa Bay Daily Progressive”) called on Crist to disavow the ad and call on the DCCC to quit running it. Crist finally did so, after allowing the ad to run for two weeks.
Jolly has tried to insert a bit of issue substance into the race, always a challenge in any race that includes Charlie Crist, by charging that Crist is anti-Second Amendment and would support all manner of anti-gun legislation that would inconvenience law-abiding gun owners but would have no pay-off in increased safety. This is almost certainly true, as Crist has adopted all of the Democrat Party’s positon on gun laws. The NRA’s Victory Fund awarded Crist a grade of F this year on gun rights.
Crist’s campaign has mostly been portraying Jolly and the Republican Party as the Grinches who stole America, and casting himself and the Democrats as sweetness and enlightenment and compassion. Barack Obama cut an ad for Crist, saying St. Petersburg voters “have an opportunity this year to elect a public servant who has always put the people first.” He added that, “As governor he worked with both parties to get things done,” without, of course, mentioning what those things were, there not being any.
In most of his ads, Crist just coos about how much he loves Pinellas County voters and lives only for public service. Public service, translated from the original Charlie, means keeping him in public office. After the I-love-public-service ads hit the air, sales of over-the-counter anti-nausea drugs spiked in St. Petersburg. It’s not much. A frail reed, really. But at this point the Jolly campaign needs to cling to any shred of good news it can find.