Crist vetoes FL education bill, sets up indy Sen run

Posted on April 15, 2010

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Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoed an education reform bill today he had once supported, angering its Republican backers to the delight of teachers unions. Not coincidentally, Crist, who once enjoyed a 30-point lead over his Republican primary opponent Marco Rubio, is now getting clobbered by Rubio after a series of statements in support of the stimulus and tepid support for President Obama’s agenda.

Crist’s veto comes on the same day a Quinnipiac poll showing that his only shot at the Florida Senate seat comes in a three-way race running as an independent against Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meeks in the general election. He only just barely edges out Rubio, and other polls have shown that he still loses in a three-way matchup.

However, both Ace and Ed Morrissey think that his veto today sets up an independent run for the Senate. Ed highlights a St. Petersburg Times article showcasing teachers that would start canvassing for Crist if he vetoed the bill. He’s skeptical that the teachers would really support Crist over the Democrat in the general election, and I would agree with him – Crist is buying off a constituency that won’t remain faithful to him in the long run.

It’s breaking now that former Gov. Jeb Bush, still popular in Florida, has slammed Crist for his veto flip-flop. But even more telling is the resignation of Connie Mack, Crist’s political mentor, as campaign manager for the Crist campaign. As Allahpundit notes, we’re watching a campaign implode in real time.

Crist’s veto may have been against a bill that wasn’t perfect and was simply what he thought was “the right thing to do,” as he said when he announced his veto today. But Crist doesn’t strike me as a principled politician so much as a political survivalist in the vein of Arlen Specter, who switched parties when it was clear he would also get clobbered in the Republican primary. At this point, I wouldn’t doubt that Crist will run as an independent despite his very specific promise to not do so.

Either way, he is finished in the Senate race. If he had any sense, he would simply bow out completely now. But if, as I suspect, his political ego is too great, he will announce an independent candidacy, ensuring his demise as a member of the GOP and most likely failing to win over the Democrats he hopes will vote for him instead.

John Cornyn and the NRSC look like gigantic fools for endorsing Crist over Rubio so early in the primary process. Cornyn, to his credit, has vowed to aggressively pursue Crist should he run as an independent, a statement that makes me think it’s very likely to happen. If/when he does, Crist will prove himself a crass political opportunist that deserves no seat in the upper chamber of Congress representing the Sunshine State.

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Posted in: News, Politics