Back in June 2009, I suggested Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist had a better chance of getting elected if he switched parties.
With 14 months until the Florida Republican Senate primary in 2010, popular Gov. Charlie Crist is riding high in the polls against his challenger, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. But the current numbers are deceiving, and as counterintuitive as it might seem, Crist is likely the underdog.
You see, Crist is an anachronism in the modern GOP. He’s a moderate with a streak of social liberalism, which places him at odds with the conservative voters who will dominate the closed primary’s electorate. Crist’s strong support among Democrats and independents won’t help him with party regulars, while his centrist record will provide ample fodder for Rubio and his allies to decimate the governor’s standing with the right-wing base.
Crist fought his own party to expand the voting rights of convicted felons in Florida, and he ‘s been quoted as declaring, “Sometimes big business can be as bad as big government and become arrogant, sloth-like and detrimental,” flying directly in the face of his party’s business-can-do-no-wrong orthodoxy [...]
This is a war of attrition, and 14 months will be more than enough for the combined might of the conservative movement to grind Crist down. Republican primary voters aren’t interested in moderation or practicality, and Crist can’t deliver the ideological purity they demand. The poll numbers should tighten by the first quarter of 2010, and Crist seems likely to face the same dilemma that Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) wrestled with a short while ago — can he remain a Republican and win a primary?
The simple fact is that Crist would likely find a better home in the Democratic Party. In light of the May 2010 filing deadline, he still has some time to make an informed decision about which party best reflects his beliefs — and which party would best boost his electoral prospects.
Unfortunately for Crist, he didn't heed that advice. And now he's struggling to figure out what to do with the filing deadline approaching. Switching to the Democratic Party is pretty much a no-go. He's spent the last month trying to out-wingnut Rubio, and Crist has so damaged himself that he no longer runs stronger as a Democrat than existing Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek. Had he switched six months ago, we'd be talking a completely different game. Now? That door is shut.
So his two options are 1) switching to Independent, or 2) quitting altogether.
One more possibility: some rumors suggest Crist might bide his time for a 2012 run against Democrat Bill Nelson. That won't work. Crist will never run as a Republican again, especially after vetoing the a top GOP priority this year -- a bill to essentially kill the teachers union. Such talk is likely a smokescreen for an impending independent bid, or a way to try and save face if he quits this race.
One thing is for sure, something big is about to happen. Crist has pulled his ads from two major markets, pointing to a complete reassessment of his electoral strategy. Top Republicans in DC are writing Crist off. The NRSC has already been slowly backing away from Crist.
The GOP will be praying that Crist drops out altogether. While a Meek-Rubio race is competitive, the GOP will still have the upper hand. Rubio has come out for raising the retirement age and reducing social security benefits, which will give Democrats a fighting chance in retiree-rich Florida, but this is still a tough state for us to win.
On the other hand, a three-way race with Rubio, Meek and Crist makes this a real crapshoot of a race. And with Rubio the presumptive nominee, it'd be good to see both Crist and Meek pounding away at the Republican. And while we'd root for Meek, a Crist victory (presuming he caucuses with Democrats, which is what the rumors suggest), would be nice consolation.
So keep your fingers crossed for an independent bid.