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Crist Now a Democrat: Reaction

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Governor Crist has finally made official what was coming for months. On Friday, he officially declared himself a Democrat and in doing so has set of a wild frenzy of speculation as to whether progressives will embrace him or simply brandish him as a turncoat. The excellent conservative website BizPac Review reminded us on Friday that Crist in 2006 touted himself  as a pro-life conservative in direct mail sent by the Republican Party of Florida. That year despite a fairly moderate to populist record as Attorney General, Crist was trying to sure up his conservative bonafides, first to fight off Tom Gallagher in the primary and then to hold together the GOP base in November. It is worth recalling that Crist had serious issues with GOP activists particularly after the Terry Schiavo case and he was trying very hard at this point to appear like a true Republican.

Crist’s strong record in 2012 of campaigning for President Obama, Senator Nelson and several Democrats running for Congress and the legislature has endeared him to many party regulars. However, still most activists I speak to do not trust the former Governor and fear a Crist nomination could completely strip the party of any principles and turn the Democrats into a mesh-mash of disparate groups who simply do not like Rick Scott; not much different than the pathetic state of the national GOP in the FDR years. At the time the GOP lacked any ideology and simply became a landing place for those who did not like the New Deal or felt Roosevelt had too much power. But in reality Florida Democrats have long ago lost its way, despite the efforts of some good legislative leaders such as Dan Gelber, Nan Rich, Keith Fitzgerald and Chris Smith.

With the Democrats suffering from a lack of a cohesive message over many years, perhaps Crist can help define an ideology.  For the better part of 15 years a Democratic Party that in Florida lacks any coherent message or policy vision other than attacking Republican officeholders and in some cases trying to distance themselves from National Democrats. Party discipline has been non-existent in the party for years and Tallahassee insiders continue to try and dictate events despite being almost completely aloof from developments in the major populations centers of the state. The weakness of the FDP and most local DEC’s has for years promoted a free-for-all among elected officials to accrue influence and in many cases to cut deals with local or Tallahassee-based Republicans.

No question exists that Crist is gaining traction in the Democratic Party. But that traction is being gained largely among big donors, and other insiders. To many of  the rank in file, Crist appears to be a combination of an opportunist and a sore loser. Whether this is a fair assessment of Crist is up for debate. But no question exists that the former Governor must show a significant change even from his 2010 positions as an Independent US Senate candidate to win a Democratic Primary.

Despite the obvious downside of Crist’s potential Gubernatorial campaign there is a significant upside. A Crist nomination would almost certainly help the Democrats try and buck an embarrassing trend. Since 1999,  the GOP has won 13 of 14 statewide offices and approximately 65% of contested Legislative elections, despite the Democrats having held a significant statewide registration advantage during the entire period, and having basically won 3 of 4 Presidential elections in the state during the period . This record of statewide futility is comparable with rock-ribbed GOP states such as Utah and Idaho, and actually worse than the Democratic performance in states like Kansas, Montana and Wyoming. Even among southern states, only Texas has an embarrassingly similar record of losing elections. But unlike any of the states named above, Florida is considered a “purple” if not actually a “blue” state on the national level.

Florida Democrats could do a lot better than Charlie Crist, but they also could do a lot worse. In fact, they have done worse in the past and Crist knows he has an opening and perhaps his once keen sense of timing (which eluded him in 2010 after almost 15 years of playing his cards correctly) has returned. Only time will tell if this was the right move at the right time for Governor Crist.

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13 Responses

  1. Crist’s electoral career is over. He cannot win a Democratic primary unless the Demos are more desperate and less principled than they act. If he wins a D nomination we know the Democratic Party as a functioning institution is dead, and us simply a stopping point for all sorts of people who do not like the Bush or Scott administrations.

  2. I am hopeful someone else runs besides Crist or Sink.

  3. I’d rather not back Crist but the lack of decent Dem options is alarming.

  4. Crist should prove his loyalty first before running.

  5. The party is a joke. Between DWS pushing an R for state chair and ignoring party rules, DECS chairs, activists and donors, she is hurting herself and the state. It seems she has been hanging out too much Wexler. Her head is getting big! The Ds should pay close attention because Crist’s buddy Sargeant ( and Wexler’s) and Rothstein can bring the parties to a hault in a bipartisan manner.

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/harry-sargeant-civil-case-reads-like-a-spy-novel/1180115

    http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/crime-law/ex-jordanian-business-partner-sues-gulf-stream-bil/nTPZr/

  6. If Gov. Crist wants to be a Democrat thats fine with me. But let him earn the Democrats support by making the rounds of the DECS and local Democratic clubs. He must make his case to the grassroots.

  7. Unless Alex Sink can demonstrate she can put together at least an “average” campaign for Governor, unlike 2010, then Charlie Christ is the only candidate likely to topple Scott.

    • Admittedly, Sink could have run a much better campaign, but a big reason for her loss is that many Democrats were so sure that Rick Scott could NOT be elected, they stayed home from the polls. Scott won with only 16% of the vote of registered voters in FL.

      • I think there are two main reasons. First, the Senate race kept a lot of Democrats home because a split in the Democratic vote meant that Rubio would win.

        Second, I know a lot of liberal Democrats that didn’t vote for Sink, but for someone else on the ballot because the didn’t like Sink. The 3.14% of people that voted for someone else on the ballot was enough to double the 1.15% loss. Still, I think the first reason is the most important one.

  8. If Crist is no threat than why has the GOP focused all of its energy on trying to damage a guy not running for anything. Interesting, either they have nothing else to do ormarenreally frighten by Crist’s potential to turn Tally upside down. Maybe this is what Florida needs to get back to common sense government. By the way does anyone recall all those DEMs that jump ship back in the 90’s to be Republicans. Those defections alone are still being felt in Florida.

    • Very true. The 1990s was filled with defections. Case in point – after the 1996 election the House was 61 R 59 D but by the time we got to the 1998 election it was 66 R 54 D based almost entirely on party switching. After the election that year we went from 72 r 48 D to 75 R 45 D again due to switches. So we lost 8 seats we actually had won in that period. Crist is being attacked by the RPOF for obvious reasons. If they weren’t fearful they wouldn’t bother attacking.

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