Thursday, April 29, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced his leap out of the Republican Party and into the race for the Senate as an independent candidate. The announcement can be viewed at Bay News 9.
Fleeing from a substantial thumping by conservative candidate Marco Rubio in the Florida Republican Primary, Charlie Crist is taking an unusual, unprecedented approach to the campaign, leaving many Republicans wondering about his motives. When questioned about Crist’s decision, former White House Press Secretary turned political commentator, Dana Perino, stated on Fox News On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, “People respect principles, not political ambition.”
Yes, I Voted For Crist in 2006
As a registered Republican, I’m not surprised at Crist’s actions. I voted for Crist as Florida’s governor, but I didn’t support him in the 2006 GOP primary; I supported his opponent Tom Gallagher because Crist’s campaign rhetoric felt ambiguous and non-committal. Crist handily defeated Gallagher in the primary by skillfully painting him as a moderate. Crist positioned himself as the conservative, but the tides have changed. Six months ago, St. Petersburg Times Political Editor, Adam C. Smith, pointed out, “When people talk about the threat Marco Rubio poses to Charlie Crist’s Senate plans, Crist backers tend to invoke two words: Tom Gallagher. He was the last Republican who tried to win a GOP primary by hailing conservative principles and trying to depict Crist as too moderate.” (See Ghost of ’06 Gallagher haunts Crist campaign.) Crist is not a conservative, and this time around, unlike Tom Gallagher, Marco Rubio has successfully called him out.
Florida Republicans Know Charlie Crist
Florida’s Republicans now have a clear view of Charlie Crist. They’ve seen his support to restore voting rights for felons, his embrace of the Obama stimulus plan, and his recent veto of Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 7189, seeking teacher accountability, limiting tenure for new teachers and linking merit pay to student scores.
The political environment has changed in Florida, many claim because of the popularity of the conservative tea party movement. Others believe Crist’s demise is simply about his lack of convictions and a degraded trust factor. “Elections are about trust and frankly, it is unclear whether Governor Crist deserves any,” said a joint statement from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We plan to put our resources and support behind Marco Rubio.” (See FLORIDA GOV. CHARLIE CRIST ANNOUNCES SENATE RUN AS INDEPENDENT – Crist, Facing Conservative Primary Opponent, Quits GOP By CLAIRE SHIPMAN, HUMA KHAN and KRISTINA WONG, ABC News)
Can Charlie Win?
Although a mid-April poll showed that Crist has a chance at winning the Senate seat as an independent, many believe it’s a long shot, and Crist is risking his political career. Brandon Larrabee of The Florida Times Union points out Crist’s challenges:
He would have to rebuild at least part of his organization.
Most of Crist’s Republican supporters and fundraisers will probably abandon him; volunteer support might also evaporate.
Anyone who works for Crist’s Senate campaign and wants to work in future GOP campaigns will have to seriously consider leaving.
At a time when fundraising is already slowing down, Crist would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars rebuilding his organization.
Larrabee’s article also points out that Crist’s infrastructure will be weakened with the switch from Republican to Independent, and there may be difficulty securing volunteers in all parts of Florida. (See Crist’s decision: GOP or go independent. The governor, who is running for U.S. Senate, will announce his decision today. By Brandon Larrabee – The Florida Times Union at jacksonville.com Posted: April 28, 2010 – 4:29pm)
Another challenge Crist faces is a concentrated effort to request the return of campaign donations. Early supporters contributed to Charlie Crist, a Republican candidate. They don’t want their contributions supporting an independent. Crist has many challenges and his future doesn’t look bright. Tom Jensen blogs at Public Policy Polling and states, “The level of support Crist starts out with from Republicans is likely to decline over the next six months.” (See “Breaking down the Crist shift” – Thursday, April 29, 2010.)
I’m never certain about what’s going to happen in South Florida, but I’m ready to bet the farm that Marco Rubio carries my corner of Florida, the panhandle, notorious for its conservative voting tendencies. I’ve seen lots of Marco Rubio stickers on cars, but none for the Democrat candidate, and none for Charlie Crist. Republican or Independent, I don’t see a win for candidate Crist.