Crist is currently in South Florida attempting to raise as much money as possible between now and November 30 so as to best legitimize his campaign, which most resembles a start-up company headed by someone who once was famously rich, then famously bankrupt, but now has a new idea everyone else wants in on.
The campaign truly does feel like a start-up, in that it has some aspects that work really well (media, strategy) and other aspects (rapid response, volunteer coordination) that will have to wait until the cash flows in.
As the Republican Party of Florida is so quick to point out, it's difficult for me to be objective about yesterday's rollout, seeing as how my wife, Michelle Todd, played a key role in organizing it. But if you followed me on Twitter yesterday, you know my commentary was relatively fair.
Here are five things I think I think about Crist's rollout.
1. How do you measure the success of Crist's rollout? By the standards set by previous gubernatorial rollouts? By standards set by Crist himself? Do you measure it against similar events held by Democratic candidates?
There was about three hundred and fifty people at the event, which is either a lot (by most other candidates' standards) or not as much as you'd expect (if you compare the event to Crist at the height of his power in 2005-06). Yet, it's probably better than what Nan Rich or Alex Sink could pull off.
It will be interesting to see if Rick Scott holds a campaign kick-off event, just to see what kind of crowd he draws. It probably will be bigger because the GOP can literally pay people to attend.
1b. It did not occur to me until this morning who was missing from yesterday's crowd? Young, activist Democrats. The establishment Democrats were there in force. The leaders of the activist organizations, like Progress Florida's Mark Ferrulo, were also there. But the rank-and-file Democrats from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party? They're still on the sidelines. Crist has to start working immediately to earn their trust.
2. Logistically speaking, and this goes to Michelle and her team's credit, the event was solid. There were no flubs or mistakes, which for a Democratic event is saying something. Critics of Crist need to remember that the last time he held a major announcement it was for his independent bid for the U.S. Senate. That was like a scene out of Mardi Gras. I swear there was a guy on stilts walking around at that event. Yesterday's event went smooth smooth smooth.
3. Crist's speech was surprising for two reasons: It was policy-driven and pugilistic. I guess Crist figures everyone knows him by now, so he doesn't need to recite how his grandfather, Adam, came over from Greece and worked hard and yada, yada. He went straight to: "Rick Scott = bad."
Read that line from Crist's speech, "Governing for the people has been replaced with cronyism and government on the fringes. The voice of the people has been silenced by the financial bullies and the special interests." Them's fightin' words.
Crist's remarks were also policy-driven, at least by Charlie Crist standards. He rattled off a laundry list of progressive ideas, such as support for high speed rail, that drew cheers from the crowd and positioned him in direct contrast with Rick Scott.
4. Is it me or was the national media coverage of Crist's announcement just a little light? Sure, sure, there were stories in the New York Times and POLITICO, but there wasn't a crush of stories. The launch didn't make it into the national tipsheets, like Mike Allen's Playbook. Perhaps that is because today is Election Day in New Jersey, Virginia and New York City and the political media is stretched thin. Still, where was CNN or MSNBC? Where are they now? Crist did his first national interview with Chuck Todd just this morning. I would have preferred to see Crist do ten more interviews like that.
4B. What's up with the Miami Herald? It didn't even put Crist's announcement on its front-page?
5. Lame. That's the word I would use to describe the Florida GOP's response to Crist's announcement. Like 'Transformers 2' lame. In fact, the Florida GOP's response was EXACTLY like watching a 'Transformers' movie: there was a lot of money for special effects, but the whole production was ruined by a ridiculous plot.
Yes, the airplane buzzing over Crist's rally was funny for the first two minutes, but after the first fly-over, it was just annoying. The statements from GOP elected officials released ad infinitum were as stale and wooden as a Michael Bay script.
And then there was the tele-conference with former U.S. Senator George LeMieux. I'm sure the Florida GOP thought having Lemieux trash Crist was a real coup, but the media reaction to LeMieux's continued disloyalty tramped down any bump the RPOF wanted to get. By the time reporters got off the phone with LeMieux, they were staring at their receivers wondering, "Did he really just go there?"
All told, the day was a win for Charlie Crist. A solid, but not spectacular, win. If he can put together the same kind of solid, but not spectacular, days between now and next November, he will likely win in solid, but not spectacular fashion.