The Unbearable Lightness of Charlie - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Unbearable Lightness of Charlie
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The Orlando Sentinel and Sun Sentinel Editorial Board interviews Charlie Crist, Democratic candidate for governor, on Oct. 13 (Orlando Sentinel/YouTube)

Tampa — With barely two weeks left before Election Day, a new Florida Atlantic University poll shows incumbent Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis with an 11-point lead over his hopeless and hapless Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist. This is the same margin as the one reflected in a Mason-Dixon poll in late September. The current RealClearPolitics average of polls shows DeSantis up by 10 points.

This comfortable lead should come as no surprise, both because of DeSantis’ solid performance as governor and because of Crist’s total lack of performance in the many offices he’s held. Inexplicably, Crist marched up the Florida political food chain, starting as a state senator in 1992 and finishing as governor from 2007 to 2010, with stops along the way as education commissioner and attorney general. No one can isolate a thing that Crist accomplished in any of the offices he’s held because he spent his time in each of these running for the next office. It’s fair to say he rose without a trace.

This curious ascent took place while Crist styled himself a Reagan Republican. This was before he became an independent, which was before he became an Obama Democrat and, finally, a Joe Biden booster, in a state where Biden and his ruinous policies are about as popular as citrus canker disease. Crist could go to a Halloween party as a shape-shifter without wearing a costume.

As a serial political trans, Crist always adopts the political positions required for the new team he’s joined. To relate just a few: As a state senator, Crist was so tough on crime and criminals, at least rhetorically, that he earned the nickname “Chain-Gang Charlie,” which pleased him. As a Biden Democrat, he professes to believe that the criminal justice system is too hard on blacks, and he anguishes over systemic racism. He was for lower taxes, then for higher taxes. He was for offshore oil drilling and then against it. And now, as is required by a Democratic Candidate Union work rule, he professes that climate change (previously known as global warming) is an “existential threat” to the planet and all its flora and fauna. Over the years, Crist has held more different positions on the tendentious issues of the day than one can find in the Kama Sutra. And some of Crist’s positions require more bending.

Readers may be asking how a nonworking number and blatant chameleon like Crist could win so many offices. It’s a fair question. One that mystified even Republican Party officials during Crist’s salad days. Some attribute his victories to weak Democratic opponents and a sunny campaigning style. Crist is a great retail campaigner. He’s a back slapper and shoulder massager who remembers everyone’s name. On the campaign trail, Crist’s natural habitat, he professes to love all Floridians and live only to serve them. He’s a master of the kind of superficial, rope-line connection that wins votes. Until this last campaign revealed a hitherto unseen nasty side to Crist — he said that DeSantis voters have “hate in [their] hearts” — he could charm the lard off a hog.

This happy warrior shtick worked pretty well for him until then-unknown Marco Rubio ran Crist out of the Republican Party in the 2010 primary campaign for a U.S. Senate seat. Crist lost that one badly as an independent. Having burned all his Republican bridges and seeing no future as an independent, he enlisted in the Democratic Party in 2012, where he resides for the moment.

After his meritless political rise ended in 2010, Crist began descending the same political ladder he had successfully climbed. Then-Florida Gov. Rick Scott foiled the new Democrat’s attempt to regain the governor’s office in 2014. Two years later, Crist spotted, ran for, and won a seat in the U.S. House in his hometown of St. Petersburg, where there remains some affection for him. This victory was helped by the fact that redistricting had made this congressional district majority Democrat. The smart money was that Crist would remain in this safe seat until he went end of watch. (Read more.) Misfortunately, for Crist at least, the same redistricting that made the seat safe for him in 2016, after the lines were moved this year, as they are every 10 years after the new census is taken, made it unwinnable for him.

So, Charlie threw his clown hat into the governor’s race to avoid the embarrassment of losing the congressional seat that still includes much of his hometown but also, now, some Republican territory to the north. To the surprise of many, including me, Crist won the nomination, demonstrating the incredible weakness of the Democratic bench in Florida. (Read more.) This surprise win puts him in a race that even Crist must know he never had a chance of winning. Speculation is that Crist is hoping that by taking one for the team — as the Democrats are going to lose to DeSantis anyway, why not let Charlie lose it; he’s so good at it — and by praising Biden extravagantly, whoever is running whatever is left of the Biden administration will appoint him to some vacuous Washington job with no duties.

And it’s a job with a reasonable salary and no duties that Crist adores. In his six years in the U.S. House, Crist, consistent to the last, did little and accomplished nothing. He has the weakest résumé-over-achievement ratio in American politics. In my half a century in and around politics, I’ve never encountered an emptier suit than Charlie Crist. He’s such a lightweight that he has to put weights in his shoes to keep from floating off into space. While campaigning he avoids mirrors as he doesn’t reflect in them. Should a future author decide to abuse some time writing a political history of Charlie Crist, I presume to recommend a title: The Unbearable Lightness of Charlie.

If Crist loses to DeSantis on Nov. 8, almost certainly, and should he receive no call from Washington, very likely, he may just give the Whig Party a call. If he can find one.

Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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