Charlie and the politics factory
Just when Floridians thought crazy state politics were about over for the year, in comes Charlie Crist. I’m sure all the coverage surrounding him during the past two weeks has Floridians and non-Floridians alike wondering what all the commotion is about. Allow me to shed a little light.
As it was reported, Crist took his visit to a White House holiday reception last week as an opportunity to announce he was switching parties for the second time in two short years, this time switching from a no-party affiliation voter, to Democrat. He switched from Republican to no-party affiliation in April 2010 when it became obvious to him that he would lose the closed Republican primary for U.S. Senate against Marco Rubio.
Since his switch last week, he has done everything in his power to garner as much attention for himself as possible. After announcing on Twitter that he filled out his paperwork to switch parties at the White House, he then issued an advisory saying he would make it official by physically going down to his county Elections Department to file the paperwork, no doubt to extend media coverage of his party switch and encourage cameras to be present as he did so.
Then this week, he was invited to testify before the Senate and took the opportunity to trash his successor, current Gov. Rick Scott, blaming him for making Florida the butt of “late night TV jokes” because of the long lines on Election Day.
Later this week, Crist declared that he was now open to new gun control laws, after decades of toting the National Rifle Association position and opposing any laws that would curb them. In fact, many point to gun rights as the one issue Crist remained unbecomingly consistent on throughout his career. The NRA’s former president and current chief lobbyist in Florida Marion Hammer called Crist out on what the Miami Herald called his “flip-flop,” saying Crist “currently claims to be a deer hunter. I suspect that the only thing he has actually ever hunted is political office.”
Needless to say, many Democratic activists in the state are giddy to see Crist abandon the various center-right issues he claimed to embrace; others are willing to overlook his flip-flops because they believe he represents their only path to defeating Gov. Scott in 2014. But other Democrats seem unwilling to sacrifice principle for the expediency Crist appears to bring. One prominent activist and head of a progressive group lashed out at what she perceives to be prominent Democrats clearing the field for Crist, saying “Charlie Crist is not a Democrat, no matter what that piece of paper says.”
Regardless of Democratic Party infighting on the matter, Crist’s reemergence in Florida politics has many Republicans uneasy about 2014. My advice to them would be to look at history. Charlie Crist was at his apex two years before his 2010 Senate race. Just a little over three years ago, it was the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Republican leadership coalescing behind then-GOP Senate Candidate Charlie Crist. At the time, he was touting (read: inflating) his conservative bona fides and running thirty-plus points ahead of little-known former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. However, Crist proved to be a political hemophiliac who bled out after a few scratches. The result: he switched parties, abandoned just about every issue he once supported, endorsed Barack Obama — whom he previously attacked routinely — switched parties again, and now it’s Democratic leadership who seem to be coalescing behind him, all while he continues to feverishly abandon politically unfavorable issues, tossing them like bags of narcotics into the ocean.
The time between now and 2014 is a political eternity, and Charlie Crist always looks good two years out. But given his history, closer to the election seems to be a different story, as voters’ memories seem to undergo some jogging.