We’ve previously discussed Charlie Crist’s involvement with two congressional candidates in the state. Those are easy places for Crist to back a Democrat considering his relationships with Allen West and Steve Southerland are not that extensive. However, in many cases 2012 will see Democrats face former Crist allies in highly contested elections.
But a big question is how involved will he with other Democratic candidates and how is his current relationship with GOP Senate frontrunner Congressman Connie Mack (who was Crist’s US Senate Campaign Finance Chair before Crist bolted the GOP) and his protege’ George LeMieux, whose entire relevance as a political figure outside of the Broward GOP owes itself to his relationship with Crist.
The assumption here and in other quarters is that Crist is essentially a Democrat these days whose penchant for shifting his views in accordance with public opinion is legendary. But what has not been discussed in great detail is how Crist’s personal relationships with leading Republicans have been affected by his move toward the Democratic column. Will Crist openly and publicly turn his back on old allies like LeMeiux and others by openly campaigning against them? How does Crist’s loyalty to GOP officeholders, present and former, fit into the equation? Will it be limited to those like Mike Fasano who continued to opely back his Senate candidacy even after he abandoned the Republican Party or will he take a pass in other races involving previous allies?
Continued discussion and speculation about Crist’s plans and his presence in the Democratic Party fuels passion on all sides of the debate. But Crist himself will have to make a critical decision. For a man who has seemed to depend on likability and amicable relationships throughout his career, turning his back on some former allies may be too much to ask. However, if Crist wants to be truly accepted in the Democratic Party by most rank and file Democrats he’ll steer clear of most of his former GOP friends during the 2012 election cycle. Many Democrats who are desperate for any kind of success on the state level are ready to accept Crist with open arms, but they must be given sufficient cover by the former Governor himself.
Given Crist’s long record of pragmatism, it is easy to predict he will back many Democrats openly while opting to sit out races involving personal friends on the GOP side. But will that suffice for most Democrats? Only time will tell.