Thursday, April 29, 2010

Independent Day

Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida will announce today that he’s going to run as an independent in the Florida Senate race.

This isn’t exactly a news flash; he’s been teasing this story to a fare-thee-well for a couple of months now, especially since Marco Rubio opened up a double-digit lead on him in the GOP polling. And since Mr. Crist, like any politician, loves the attention, he hasn’t exactly played it close to his vest. He’s had reporters from all over the country hanging on his every word.

It’s not like he had any choice, either. Unless the credit card scandal in the Florida GOP really implicated him, Mr. Rubio was going to cruise to the win in August and Mr. Crist’s career in Florida would essentially be over, and while as the Herald article notes Mr. Crist doesn’t like to make enemies, he would be out in the cold if he got trounced. And it’s not like the Florida GOP has been exactly supportive of him, too. They see which way the wind blows, and for the moment, it’s blowing through Tea Party territory and Marco Rubio.

The problem with that, however, is that the teabaggers are not all of one stripe; you have the limited-government types, the libertarians, and the moronic racists all jostling to be the real Tea Party. If Mr. Rubio has any hope of attracting anyone outside of that chaotic melange, he’s going to have to compromise, and that’s not something these cultists do.

So, as I noted yesterday, it’s going to be a three-way race, and while nothing in Florida politics is ever really certain, it will, at the least, keep us entertained. His opponents are scrambling to put the best spin on this for their own chances, and you can expect to hear Mr. Rubio and Kendrick Meek, the leading Democrat, claim it as a victory for their side.

Mr. Crist going independent also raises a couple of questions. First, is he running as an independent only in the Senate race, or is he now Gov. Charlie Crist (I-FL)? That may make his Senate chances better, but he still has to be the governor, and he will need some allies in Tallahassee and throughout the state, especially if the need arises. While he’s a lame-duck governor and the Florida legislative session is wrapping up this week, he still needs to have some party clout unless he’s planning to coast through the rest of his term. What if he needs to call a special session? Who is going to pay attention to him if they can’t see any political advantage for backing him? And if he claims to be running only as an independent for the Senate race and still insisting on having the “R” after his name while he’s governor, the Florida GOP, which is already scrubbing him from their website, might take a dim view of that and no party loyalist will give him the time of day.

If that’s the way it goes, Charlie Crist will be GINO; Governor In Name Only, powerless and irrelevant. And in the current state of the state, that’s not exactly the kind of “limited government” we need.