Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Charlie Crist’s Choices

Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) told the St. Petersburg Times that between himself and Marco Rubio, he’s the real Republican in the primary race for the open Senate seat in Florida.

“There are a lot of Republicans that don’t have the inclination to go to executive committee meetings,” he said. “There is wide swath of [R]epublican voters out there that don’t necessarily listen to cable tv all the time.”

[…]

“It’s hard to be more conservative than I am on issues — though there are different ways stylistically to communicate that — I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun, I’m pro-family, and I”m anti tax.” … “I don’t know what else you’re supposed to be, except maybe angry too.”

I assume the last point was a shot at the tea-baggers and the birthers; Mr. Crist pointed to a poll in Daily Kos that Mr. Rubio’s biggest supporters are those who think President Obama isn’t really a U.S. citizen.

There are a couple of problems here for Mr. Crist. As the paper pointed out, when Mr. Crist was in the Florida legislature, he used to call himself “pro-choice,” he voted against restrictions on abortion, and he signed a hike on the cigarette tax. He ran as a moderate consensus-builder in his gubernatorial campaign, he embraced — literally and figuratively — the Obama stimulus plan, and he launched his Senate campaign with the idea that he could basically win it in a walk with support of moderate and independent voters. Now that he has to actually win the primary, he’s got to prove that he’s just as hard-core as Mr. Rubio, who, no matter what you think of his positions on the issues, has one thing going for him: he doesn’t have to fake it. (When Mr. Crist says, “It’s hard to be more conservative than I am,” what he really meant is that it’s hard to be conservative, period. And when you’re a Republican relying on a poll from Daily Kos, you’re really reaching for it.)

I get the feeling that Mr. Crist is sensing he’s in for a tough road ahead in convincing the True Believers in the Florida GOP base that he’s really one of them. He may have forgotten about his voting record in the state legislature, but rest assured the Rubio campaign has not, and there is still a deep-seated mistrust of him, based on his mercurial record and suspicion about his private life. To a lot of people in Florida he comes across as another Mitt Romney; opportunistic and acting as if he is entitled to the job. So what does he do? Well, the Kos poll says that Mr. Crist would have his best shot of winning the Senate seat if he ran as a Democrat.

Whether we’d want him as a Democrat is another story, and one that would depend heavily on how he managed his party switch. But it’s clear that he’s no longer welcome in his own party. And he has a choice to make — remain as a hated interloper in his existing party, or try to find a more hospitable home elsewhere.

It won’t be the first time that Mr. Crist is faced with making a decision about who he really is.

HT to TPM.