The Last Straw — It’s Time for Crist to Quit the Senate Race
By Spartacus Thrace
(JANUARY 11, 2010 UPDATE) — It wasn’t even close. Marco Rubio has today defeated Charlie Crist 106-54 in a straw poll held in Pinellas County, home of Charlie Crist. The poll, conducted by the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee among 177 of its members in attendance, was a test of Crist’s strength among the Republican base and among long-time Crist stalwarts. Crist’s overwhelming loss to Rubio is being delared by the media as a major symbolic blow to Crist’s efforts to secure the Republican nomination for Senate on August 24th. Conservatives are hailing the result as proof that Crist is seen as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) even in his home county and that Crist is an obstacle to reforming government in accordance with conservative principles. A video provided by the PCREC shows the reaction of the crowd as the results were read by PCREC Chairman JJ Beyrouti (hat-tip to PCREC):
(January 9, 2010) — On Monday, January 11, 2010, Governor Charlie Crist will be facing a straw poll among Republicans in his home county at the meeting of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee (PCREC). If Crist fails to achieve anything less than an overwhelming victory against his main challenger Marco Rubio it will be a failure for Crist. If Crist is resoundingly rejected by those very Republicans who nurtured his brilliant political career since its inception, it will could signal a political Waterloo on Florida’s August 24 Primary Day for a man who has set his sights as far as the White House.
Crist knows all of this, and his obvious concern about the straw poll was shown when he and (now-former) Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida Jim Greer crashed the PCREC meeting in October. Ominously, the crowd of about 200 Republicans attending that meeting was polite towards Crist and his friend, but not enthusiastic.
Local straw polls do not necessarily correlate to what the rest of the voters in that political party are thinking, nor do they indicate what voters outside that party will do on Election Day, but they are significant in other ways. If, for instance, one candidate consistently loses straw polls held by local executive committees across the state while another candidate for the same office consistently wins them, it is a fair indicator that the losing candidate will do poorly in a closed primary because the people who vote in these straw polls tend to be the most influential people in that party. That is the situation that Crist is in today, having lost handily to Rubio in straw polls all over the state, and it’s now time for Crist to rethink his Senate candidacy.
While Crist remains one of the most gifted politicians in the history of Florida, he has cultivated the image of a superficial, lightweight opportunist who views the governorship as just another pit stop on his road to higher political office. The people of Florida elected him to run the state government well and to solve the problems of the citizenry that are proper objects of state government. Crist has failed to focus on Job One for the people of his state, even after a major economic downturn hit the state, and has put his personal agenda ahead of theirs, treating the governorship as one vast smoke-filled back room.
There are also a number of specific reasons why many Republicans in Pinellas County and beyond are finished with Charlie Crist. These reasons include but or not limited to the following:
– Crist’s hand-picked choice to head the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), Jim Greer, turned the RPOF into an extension of the Crist for Senate Campaign and actively tried to crush the campaign of rival Republican Marco Rubio. Greer also engaged in a number of other high-handed acts and improprieties that tarnished the image of Republicans in the state and was eventually forced to resign, but not without a fight that split the executive committees and the party headquarters. The smouldering Greer crisis was an opportunity for Crist to show leadership among Republicans and he showed none. One of the results was that some Republicans lost faith in the Party and joined with disgruntled Independents and conservative Democrats to form the TEA Party. Stepping into this leadership vacuum, the big donors finally forced the issue out of fear that the RPOF was about to be destroyed.
– The Governor further demonstrated that it was all about him and not about the people who elected him when in August 2009 he appointed his former aide, George LeMieux, to replace Senator Mel Martinez when Martinez quit the Senate. Crist’s appointment of LeMieux to fill the remaining 17 months of Martinez’s term , occurring several months after Crist had announced that he was running for that seat and coupled with LeMieux’s pledge not to run for the seat in 2010, created the impression that Crist’s “selection process” for a replacement was a sham and that he was putting LeMieux in the seat to keep it warm for Crist. Here, again, Crist had the opportunity to show leadership and instead he showed none.
– Crist appeared with President Barack Obama in February 2009 to support Obama’s $787B “stimulus package” bill, asked Florida members of Congress to vote for it even told the Associated Press that he would have voted for it if he had been in the Senate. As the substantial conservative backlash mounted, Crist tried to deny that he had supported it at all. Alas, Crist was caught in this act of transparent duplicity when reporters looked at his statements on his own “Florida Recovery” website and compared his videotaped statements on this issue. Crist then became laughingstock for the Left as they mocked him as an example of Republican duplicity:
– Crist has undermined the integrity and competence of the state judiciary by manipulating and sometimes using heavy-handed tactics against the state’s judicial nominating commissions and committees to get them to nominate candidates he wants them to select, setting up a secret “shadow panel” that operates outside the public light and beyond the purview of the state’s judicial nominating commissions to review those seeking judicial appointments from him, and by appointing cronies such as Tommy Minkoff to the bench in lieu of appointing qualified, politically independent jurists. Treating the power of judicial appointments as a bag of gifts is not just a poor choice, it is an affront to the democratic process.
Charlie Crist is not the first Florida politician to demonstrate that he is an self-centered opportunist unpossesed of any permanent guiding principles, and he certainly won’t be the last. Today, however, times are hard and the people of this state need strong, principled leadership, not lightweight shennanigans. Perhaps Crist will bring enough of his supporters to the PCREC meeting to get more votes than his rival Marco Rubio, but this appears very unlikely according to many of the members. Maybe his fundraising advantage over Marco Rubio will turn the tide for Crist in the August primary, but that seems less likely every day as the voters become increasingly conservative while looking for responsible, principled government.
Hopefully, the PCREC members will send Crist the message on Monday night that this is the last straw, and encourage him to go back to Tallahassee to do the work of the people and abandon his quest for the Senate.