Charlie Crist to run as an independent

Posted on April 28, 2010

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 Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has decided to put his personal political ambitions over the good of a political party that has supported him over his entire career as a politician. It is anticipated that Crist will tomorrow announce he will continue to run in the Florida Senate race as an independent. In so doing, he goes back on a very specific promise he made on several occasions to abide by the result of the Republican primary and support Marco Rubio if he should win.

The only trouble is that Rubio is currently destroying Crist in primary polling. The upstart conservative has turned a deficit that was once 30 points into a commanding lead over a sitting governor. The writing is on the wall, and politicians with class and an eye for the national picture would step aside and let the party voters choose their candidate.

Crist isn’t one of those politicians (if in fact they exist at all). His defection allows Democrats and liberals to get excited about his candidacy – not because of Crist’s personal qualities, but because it sticks it to Republicans and conservatives. And it allows people like Matthew Yglesias to write ridiculous articles that suggest the Republicans are closing their collective mind over defections like Crist and Specter.

Here’s the only problem – like Specter, Crist’s defection isn’t based on a difference of political principle with the national party as a whole. It is a calculated move designed to maximize the length of time he serves in a major public office. Republicans aren’t kicking him out of the party; Florida primary voters just seem to prefer Rubio to Crist, a situation which appears unacceptable to the current governor.

Let’s all be realistic – Rubio isn’t some conservative Nazi (or a conservative messiah, either), and Crist isn’t some left-wing nut masquerading as a Republican. The temptation will be too strong to make his switch about the Republican party, when the switch is really just about Crist and his inability to give up the limelight.

There are undoubtedly some polls that show a path to victory for Crist; otherwise it would be beyond foolhardy to pull a stunt like this. In a three-way race, though, Rubio still edges out Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meeks in most recent polls. But Crist’s independent candidacy risks splitting the Republican vote and allowing Meeks to win. And I’m not too sure who Crist is really going to play to with unprincipled waffling like this.

One thing is certain – Charlie Crist’s career as a Republican is finished forever. Many members of his campaign staff have quit in disgust over his decision, including his campaign manager and political mentor  Connie Mack. Crist is looking for some short-term political upshot with Florida Democrats that will appreciate him merely for poking the GOP in the eye, but in the long run he won’t be trusted by them, and he will have alienated the party that got him to this point.

I hope you believe your career is worth it, Mr. Crist. I’m fairly sure that not too many others do.

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Posted in: News, Politics