Charlie Crist Picks A Fight Republicans Don’t Need

Republicans are going to have a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities in the 2010 elections. One thing the party needs to do is get our best candidates into races we can win; another is to make sure we hold the easy races and avoid bloody and ideologically divisive primaries in the tough ones; a third is to make sure we can raise adequate funds to support all the races we need to contest; and a fourth is to promote the young stars of the party who will represent its future.
Charlie Crist disregarded all of that when he announced that he was dropping out of the race for re-election as Governor of Florida to enter the primary to replace retiring Republican Senator Mel Martinez. And NRSC Chairman John Cornyn, by immediately endorsing Crist, signalled that he encouraged this sort of behavior. Shame on both of them for putting Crist’s personal ambitions above the good of the party. Let us count the ways in which Crist’s decision is bad for the Florida GOP and the national party:

(1) Crist Is Abandoning His Post.

This is the underreported aspect of what Crist is doing, on the national level – but it’s not going unnoticed in Florida. The GOP has held the Governor’s mansion in Florida for 11 years now, through two highly successful terms of conservative Governor Jeb Bush and now the more moderate Crist enjoying the fruits of the Bush-built party. Crist hasn’t been an especially great Governor, but he’s popular enough and he’s handled managerial aspects of the job (e.g., hurricanes) pretty well. He’d be a very strong favorite for re-election in 2010, likely running unopposed for the nomination and allowing the Florida GOP to put the bulk of its efforts behind the Senate race and the down-ticket races. And holding the statehouse is especially critical, with redistricting on the horizon after the 2010 Census – for the future of the party at the state level as well as in the House, the Governor’s mansion may even be a bigger deal than the Senate, which is saying quite a lot. Anyone with a passing familiarity with how political parties work should know this, which is what makes it so infuriating that the NRSC wants Crist out of the Governor’s race.

The Miami Herald lays out the ramifications down-ticket, where Crist’s maneuver opens up a chain reaction of contested races for Republican-held offices:

Besides Crist and Sink, the other statewide elected officials expected to seek new office are Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, both likely to run for governor.
Crist’s bid could also leave the Republican Party of Florida in the lurch, putting at risk its control of the governor’s mansion and Florida’s Cabinet. And with Crist running for federal office, he no longer can raise corporate contributions or unlimited “soft money” for the state party. That means that the state GOP, already cutting staffers and facing fundraising challenges with the sour economy, loses its top money-raiser.

“It’s a huge problem for Republicans, and it certainly plays into the other side’s hands,” said Republican consultant Brett Doster of Tallahassee. “It’s going to put the party in a more defensive posture than it has been in a couple decades.”

What’s more, some Republicans are worried about their top contender for governor, McCollum. He has lost two of three statewide bids since 2000. Sink, considered the Democratic front-runner for governor if she runs, won her first and only statewide campaign in 2006.

“Bill McCollum is a great attorney general, but I think sometimes when individuals have run too many times statewide, you have to look at who’s electable in a general election and then everybody needs to get behind that person in a primary,” said Kathleen Shanahan, chief of staff to former Gov. Jeb Bush.

The only party leaders who would encourage Republicans to take this course are Barack Obama and Howard Dean.

(2) Crist Is Throwing His Weight Against A Rising Star

For all the talk about ideas – and ideas do matter quite a lot – political parties win and lose elections with people. And when you have good people on your team, you want them to succeed and advance.

Marco Rubio is one such person. Only 38 years old, the charismatic, Miami-born Cuban-American Rubio – a lawyer and father of four – has risen swiftly in his decade in Florida politics, serving as a City Commissioner for the City of West Miami before entering the Florida House, where he served four terms, served first as Majority Whip during the last redistricting, then Majority Leader and finally Speaker of the Florida House before term limits forced him out of the job in 2009. You can read more here on Rubio, and watch him in action:

And announcing his Senate run:

Rubio is everything older Republicans like Crist should be encouarging: he’s young but already experienced as a leader, he’s telegenic and a good speaker, he’s conservative, and yes, he’s Latino, a demographic that a more inclusive Republican party would be reaching out to, not spurning. Here’s the reaction from the conservative Hispanic Leadership Fund:

We are highly disappointed that the Republican establishment would slam the door on Marco Rubio, who is the kind of candidate that the GOP should be eagerly supporting. We have heard a lot of talk about how the party wants to find qualified Hispanic candidates to run for office but in the end we see once again that this is nothing but lip-service. Additionally, as conservatives, we are doubly troubled that Rubio has been so swiftly brushed aside by the powers that be. Republicans cannot be a governing majority again until they earn more Hispanic votes, and this move certainly does not help them in this regard.

Charlie Crist has talked a good talk as Governor about promoting diversity, but here we have a guy who is every bit as qualified as Crist to hold statewide office as a legislator – and rather than find a way to co-exist with him, Crist bolts his own job to try to stop Rubio. So much for outreach.

(3) Crist Is Picking An Ideological Battle

Florida is one place where the moderates and the conservatives have, by and large, managed to get along pretty well, as illustrated by statewide victories by the likes of Bush, Crist, Martinez and McCollum, men who certainly don’t see eye to eye on every issue. By running Crist for re-election and Rubio for the Senate, Republicans could send a clear message to voters that the state party remains big enough for both groups. Instead, Crist is jumping into a messy, expensive primary race that will split the party into clearly-defined ideological camps and is bound to leave hard feelings on both sides. Moderate Republicans can complain all they want about the Pat Toomey primary challenge to Arlen Specter, but make no mistake: in this race, it’s the moderate picking a fight to muscle out a conservative in a state where there is no serious question that conservatives have won and can continue to win races statewide.

(4) Crist Is Leading The Wrong Way

Finally, to be blunt, Crist is wrong on the biggest issue of the day: whether Republicans should oppose President Obama’s plans to massively increase government spending and government control of health care, banking, energy, the auto industry, and indeed virtually every aspect of the U.S. economy. His embrace of the wasteful $787 billion stimulus package is the first step in a political Jim Jones act, by which Republicans abandon the clear distinctions that give voters any reason to choose Republicans over Democrats. It’s one thing for Crist to be a moderate back home in Florida, where he has to work in a coalition with other Republicans, but it’s entirely another to send him to Washington on a platform of joining the Democratic coalition on one issue after another. The party simply can’t survive if it’s identified with Obama’s agenda, and why would such an opposition party appeal to anybody?

Finally, John Cornyn has proven that he has learned absolutely nothing from the fiasco of 2006, when the GOP lost close Senate races elsewhere after pouring millions into a primary race to prop up Lincoln Chaffee. You don’t cannibalize key offices like the Florida Governorship to recruit candidates, and you certainly don’t do so to poke a stick in the eye of the party’s base by creating a contested primary against a rising star who appeals to a crucial demograpic. It’s a loser move all around.

33 thoughts on “Charlie Crist Picks A Fight Republicans Don’t Need”

  1. I don’t know much about Crist, but at the very least, I’m happy to see that the RNC is not discouraging moderate Republicans for national office.

  2. I’m so tired of hearing the term “moderate”, no matter if it’s Republican or Democrat. It’s pretty simply, really- take a stand on an issue, whatever that issue might be. How can someone be moderate on the issue of abortion? Either you support it or you don’t, you can’t say “I’m pro-life, except when…”. Life doesn’t work like that.
    I’ll say it again- if you don’t take for something, you think everything goes. That’s the problem with so-called “moderates”- it’s more about being politically/personally convenient instead of making a decision.

  3. Troy,
    I think you would be less tired of the word “moderate” if you had a better idea of what it meant. Being a “moderate” does not necessarily mean that you take the middle ground on every issue. A moderate is often someone who is liberal on certain issues, and very conservative on others. On balance, that person is a moderate. It’s just a shorthand – it has nothing to do with being indecisive or convenience-oriented.

  4. I am coming to the conclusion that many Republicans – even relatively smart ones, like Crank – would simply rather have a party that is a tiny minority but agrees with them 99% of the time, instead of a party that is relatively strong but only agrees with them 85% of the time.
    It’s hard to believe that this is a party that only has 40 Senate seats, and yet seems to be doing everything it can to ensure that this number *decreases*. How many Senate seats do people like Crank think we should have? 35? 30? 25?
    Hey, look, if we can drive squishes like Arlen Specter (already gone), Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (who Michael Steele alrady said aren’t real Republicans, because they supported the stimulus), Tom Ridge (pro abortion), Charlie Crist (stimulus supporter), Mark Kirk (pro abortion), Mike Castle (voted for 2009 budget), etc. out of the party, then the Republican Party can be really, really pure! Hooray – then we could really draw a sharp contrast with Obama! Yes, we’d only have 25 Senate seats, but we Draw. A. Sharp. Contrast. Yippee!
    We as Republicans ought to be supporting candidates who give us the best chance to win, not who are the most pure. Crist is very, very strong candidate. Rubio is *at best* a toss up.
    This, BTW, is the reason I don’t belong to the freakshow over at RedState. An entire website dedicated to ensuring that our party is as small as possible. No thanks.

  5. Hey Crank, I understand where you are coming from, but we need to start winning seats. This takes an open seat off the market so to speak and allows us to spend money in other Senate races. If we can hold our seats plus our open seats-we might be able to pick up Reid’s seat, Dodd’s seat and Plugs Biden’s old seat, Spector’s seat, hey Obumblers old seat might even come into play with the Blago blowback.

  6. I’m fine with running moderates under some circumstances. You don’t hear me arguing we should not run Castle in DE, or that we should primary Crist if he ran for FL-GOV again. Snowe and Collins annoy me greatly, but they are the best we have in ME. I supported Rudy, then McCain for President. I supported (and lived to regret supporting) Schwarzenegger for CA-GOV back before he became the proverbial “economic girlie-man.” I supported Lazio for Senate. I have voted repeatedly for Pataki and Bloomberg. I could go on…I don’t think we should be picking fights in the party over abortion at this moment, for example, and while out of power we can probably survive more differences of opinion on foreign policy. I just think at this point in time, the party needs to speak with one voice on the great issue of the day: Obama’s massive expansion of federal spending, of the regulatory role of the federal government, and of marginal taxes on productive activity. I think there’s a lot of untapped voter dissatisfaction on this issue, and if we turn our backs on that to run candidates who don’t stand for anything besides their own ambition, I don’t know what exactly we’re supposed to tell the voters.
    As for taking an open seat off the table – even if it does, it puts a safe governorship into play and will overall lead to a much more expensive and divisive battle within the state GOP of one of our most successful states.

  7. How dare Crist deign to run against Crank’s new boy wonder? The nerve of this man.

  8. A Crist run for the U.S. Senate is not the end of the world, but I think it does show that some Republican leaders still think Democrat Lite is the path to victory. Two words: John McCain.
    I think it is a hoot when Leftists accuse Republicans of demanding ideological purity. The GOP is a far bigger tent than the Democrat party. Remember Joe Lieberman? He has a voting record to the left of John Kerry, but because he disagreed with the Dims on the war and refused to accuse the Bush administration of war crimes on a daily basis they ran him out of the party. Remember, he is technically an independent because the Dims booted him to run a more Lib-pure candidate.
    As for Snarlin’ Arlen, the GOP leadership stood behind him in 2004 despite his regular slaps at the conservative wing of the party. George W. Bush even went out of his way to support Specter when he was challenged by Pat Toomey.
    Crist is not the end of the world, but he is also not the key to the GOP’s future. Conservatism wins every time its tried. If conservatism were truly dead, Dims would not be working so hard to identify it and ridicule it as their mentor Saul Alinsky instructed. Republicans have allowed Leftists to define them. It is simply a matter of leaders who can frame key issues in terms of limited government and individual liberty.

  9. I’ve got nothing against Crist, and he’s the sort of Republican I’d probably vote for. But I agree with your political calculus.

  10. Let’s see if I can translate Crank’s lengthy analysis into one sentence of what he really means…”I oppose Crist because he’s a moderate, not a conservative.”

  11. seth, go back and read it again. Your Readers Digest version is an Epic FAIL.
    If you’re going to call yourself a Republican and count on the party for support, you might have to put your ambitions aside from time to time. Crist refuses even though the facts are as Crank has laid them out. You don’t have to be an ideologue to agree.

  12. Maybe you could get Carrie Prejean to run for the seat. She seems like she’s right up y’all’s alley.

  13. “If you’re going to call yourself a Republican and count on the party for support, you might have to put your ambitions aside from time to time. ”
    It seems what Crank wants him to do is put aside his ambitions for the right wing of the Republican party.
    As for Crist, I can understand a right-wing Republican being disappointed that the NRSC -*endorsed* Crist rather than stay neutral.
    But the fact the Crist himself wants to run for the Senate shouldn’t make him a traitor in anyone’s eyes. I mean, good god, “abandoning his post”??? Since when was he running for governor at the behest of the Republican leadership in the first place? They didn’t command him to be there.

  14. That’s actually a pretty funny reply. However, it is the new GOP wish: Woman, vapid, liar.

  15. Odd how that “vapid” woman is kicking around Perez Hilton and his online fanboys like Jim with little apparent effort.* The “lying” part, of course, is itself a lie perpetrated by the fanboys when they’re not busy feigning outrage over risque photographs.
    *–with an assist from The Donald, of course. The man is an egomaniac, but every now and again he drops the hammer on targets–like Rosie O’Dumb@$$–who really have it coming.

  16. I have not bothered to blog on it, but the Prejean/Hilton flap is pretty much American cultural politics in a nutshell. Here you have a girl pursuing what I assume is her lifelong ambition of being in a beauty pageant. She’s pretty and polite, but so far as I can tell, has never been involved in anything political or spent a lot of time preparing for political debate, and she hasn’t lived her life with one eye on preserving her political viability, so to speak. She shows up at the pageant looking to avoid a political squabble.
    In the other corner you have Perez Hilton, who is apparently a newcomer to the pageant world she’s lived in for years, invited in because of his online notoriety. He’s rude, boorish, and gives no indication of being any more educated about politics than Prejean, but he makes up in anger and bile what he lacks in knowledge or logic. And he makes a deliberate decision, borne of his hostility towards Prejean’s religious faith, to pick a political fight and torpedo her completely apolitical life ambitions; he decides that adherence to his view of one political issue should be a litmus test for winning a freaking beauty pageant.
    Prejean responds with a fairly tepid answer. It is an answer, as she later points out, that is 100% consistent with the professed position of President Obama. And the Left takes this as a signal to conduct a lengthy campaign to destroy her personally.
    So, yeah, the Prejean/Hilton controversy is a telling one indeed. But not in the way you seem to think.

  17. Yeah, Lefties figure we have to come running to the defense of the pretty little fundy when most of us either could care less about her or figure she can take care of herself.
    What we’re enjoying here is how you people expose yourselves as the least tolerant and most hateful people in America. And all because some fat little dips$#t like Perez Hilton decided to make an ass of himself.
    You know, a lot of more sensible people would have walked away from Perez Hilton and let his words damn him alone. But not you clever Lefties!

  18. Apparently you haven’t heard the lies about the semi-nude pictures she had taken (I’m all for ’em but don’t run the jive talk once they’re in the wind) or the paid for by the show boob job (again, I don’t care but c’mon). She’s for “opposite marriage” which tells me that she’s either not very well spoken (um, isn’t that allegedly the point of the whole Miss USA thing?) or perhaps not the sharpest pencil in the desk. Take the twist out of all your panties. Geez, this is what I mean by y’all having no sense of humor. Maybe she can take Ann the Man’s gig when she’s done bashing the gays (or Anita Bryant since she’s no longer slinging OJ).

  19. “So, yeah, the Prejean/Hilton controversy is a telling one indeed. But not in the way you seem to think. ”
    You could also add that it is just another example that you need to be a total liberal to be accepted in Hollywood. If your political priorities are somehow beyond saving the whales or feeding the world’s poor (and don’t worry, no one will ask if you if it’s practical), then sorry, you aren’t invited to the afterparty.
    I should add the Schwarzenegger corollary: if a big star turns Republican, you can’t criticize that person if he/she is “cool” because it will hurt your career.

  20. Leaving aside for the moment the utter idiocy of these “beauty pageants,” I don’t see how anyone other than the sponsors or, in this case Trump, who hope to make money should care what these vapid, silicon-enhanced bimbos say.
    Perez Hilton’s question was an unfair one, as it went to religious beliefs, which really shoud be irrelevant in these contexts. Her answer was fine. I could not disagree more, but she should not be punished for what seems to be an honestly held belief.

  21. …or the paid for by the show boob job (again, I don’t care but c’mon).
    You very obviously do care, so c’mon yourself. You care because she holds an opinion you don’t agree with so now her boobs are important to you. Can you not see how stupid you look, how transparent?
    What’s worse, you know most people agree with her, so rather than argue about her opinion that you do not share, you make an issue of her boobs. You people act like children.

  22. Sponge,
    Of all the inane comments you have made this might top the list. I could care less if she got a boob job. Zillions of women do. To some extent I’m not sure what you are talking about. Apparently you think it’s boobs when what I was mentioning was the hush-hush job relating to the fact that the Miss USA pageant paid for the work. If anyone needs to keep it in their pants it would seem to be you. Then again, that’s no shocker either.

  23. I’ll care about the viewpoint of a beauty pageant contestant the same day I care what a Republican’s viewpoint is.
    They’re an irrelevancy and a relic from the last century.

  24. jim, you’re still avoiding the issue, which is her opinion and why you hate her for it. You choose instead to make the issue her paid-for boobs.
    You do this because most people agree with her, not you. If you cannot make sense of this, it’s not because it’s inane, but because you are making a point not to understand it. Or else you’re being very dishonest.
    Either way, it’s a win for the Right.

  25. Sponge. you’re nuts. Speaking of relics of the past…
    If you look at the tide of things (which I know the right is highly disinclined to do) you will find that you are going to be on the wrong side of history. That’s okay though.
    BTW, I don’t hate her. Where do you all come up with stuff like this? Why does it have to be hate? Yikes. I think she’s wrong, I think she’s perhaps not that bright, I think she may be less than forthright but I don’t hate her. Geez, let off the gas a little man, you’re gonna give yourself a heart attack.

  26. Go back and read your little hatchet job from yesterday, jim, and tell me who needs to get a grip. All those pixels wated and not one word about the actual matter of her opinion, which put her boobs and everything else in the spotlight.
    You know, that fat, disgusting Perez Hilton called her the worst names imaginable and yet I am supposed to let off the gas. You people are beyond obtuse.

  27. Hatchet job? You are over the top my man. I said nothing about her breasts other than pertaining to the paid for by the pageant operation. You either can’t read coherently, can’t deduce or are dishonest. Or all three.
    I believe Hilton called her a “dumb bitch”. If that’s as bad as it gets in your life you live in Pleasantville.

  28. “I don’t see how anyone other than the sponsors or, in this case Trump, who hope to make money should care what these vapid, silicon-enhanced bimbos say.” -Magrooder
    Just found the thought of “silicon enhancement” amusing — are we adding integrated circuits to people now?
    Why does it matter who paid for her boob job? Concerns like that are either non sequiters or ad hominem attacks, and not relevant to the fact that Hilton may or may not be applying a political test to an essentially apolitical person in an apolitical competition. You will have to show some relevance to have that comment taken seriously.

  29. Man, explaining something pretty simple takes a long time here. The point was not as if she came right out and said, “Hey, I’m Miss California and The Miss USA Pageant helped me out by paying for a breast augementation.” Presumably not all contestents were afforded the same opportunity. Who cares? Not me. I was attempting to make a simple little joke about Republican candidates for office (and really, it could be either party) falling into a certain category. I forget that any type of humor, no matter how simple or mundane, is generally totally lost here and turned into some stupid anger-fest.
    I hereby personally apologize to all pageant candidates of any kind, women who have had any sort of breast, nose, butt, lip, tummy augmentation and to the grand GOP for running only the most honorable, well-meaning, substantive, above-board, caring, non-homophobic candidates. I apologize to anyone here who took this as some giant personal affront because of the use of the term “boob job” instead of “breast enhancement”. If I left anyone out I apologize for leaving you out.

  30. If Rubio is indeed a star then the Senate is not where he should be. The Senate is for time servers and party hacks who take themselves too seriously. Rubio should go for Governorship where he can do some good, and maybe try for the White House if that goies well.

  31. If Rubio is indeed a star then the Senate is not where he should be. He would just be another one out of 50, and would have to wait for older colleagues to die before he gets to exert any real influence. The Senate is for time servers and party hacks who take themselves too seriously. Rubio should go for Governorship where he can do some good, and maybe try for the White House if that goes well.

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