Breaking Down The Crist Endorsement

Individual endorsements tend to be over rated as a way of moving persuadable voters. By and large endorsements only matter to the political class and perhaps in some fundraising circles. It’s been my experience as a Florida Democratic operative in the past that the only personal endorsement that actually is worthwhile is that of Bob Graham- he’s the only Democrat in Florida respected by enough voters to make a difference and even his impact tends to be much greater in primaries. I imagine Jeb Bush has a similar standing among Republicans. But beyond Graham and Bush individual endorsements don’t move voters except in small localized instances. However, the Charlie Crist endorsement of President Obama is important for several reasons.

Charlie Crist is a unique figure in Florida politics. Once beloved he’s become polarizing among the political class but still maintains an aura of non-partisanship and credibility with the public at large. As the narrative develops about Republican extremism, the Crist endorsement can help the Democrats take a page out of the GOP playbook .  In the past the GOP has adroitly exploited southern Democratic elected officials painting the picture of a party that was out of touch with mainstream America and regional in scope.  Zell Miller became the most outspoken critic but previously there were the likes of Bob Bullock, Sonny Montgomery, William Donald Schaefer and others.  Here in Florida, countless “Democrats” backed Jeb Bush publicly, including Wayne Mixson, T.K. Wetherell and Senator Ron Silver. The goal of these endorsements was to narrowly define the Democratic party as a fringe element in American society.

Today, the tables are turned. In the last Presidential campaign, the likes of  former moderate Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) and former Gov. Arne Carlson (R-Minnesota) and Rep. Wayne Gilchrist (R-Maryland) endorsed Obama openly. For the first time in recent memory elected officials of the GOP openly broke with the party. Previously party discipline was so great among Republican elected officials that even the most moderately liberal elected Republicans openly campaigned for George W. Bush, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush in direct contrast to what was happening with many Democratic officials at the very same time.

Crist’s endorsement of Obama while perhaps not moving any voters based specifically on his support, helps to continue to paint a picture of a GOP moving further and further towards the fringe of American politics. Consider also Crist’s personal likability and support. Garnering almost 30% of the statewide vote for US Senate running without a party infrastructure or fundraising apparatus is no small feat. Regardless of Crist’s defeat in 2010, he became the most successful non-major party candidate to run statewide in Florida in 94 years. The last successful non-major party candidate was Governor Sidney Catts who after losing the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1916 (when Florida was essentially a one-party state) ran on the ticket of the Prohibition Party railing against Catholics and Blacks. While Florida elected many segregationists before 1970, Catts is the only out and out racist who used overt racist rhetoric on the stump, ever elected statewide.

Crist is obviously very different from Catts and his popularity stems from a cheery personality and his advocacy of a populist agenda. Populism by nature rejects ideology and Crist’s endorsement of the President furthers the narrative that those looking for real solutions to real problems need not consider the GOP ticket. So while Crist himself may not move votes, the endorsement itself is highly significant moving forward.

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25 thoughts on “Breaking Down The Crist Endorsement

  1. I’ll bet there have been similar ‘movements to the fringe’ earlier in American politics. Perhaps the split of the Democratic Party over slavery in the mid 1800’s?

  2. This probably makes no difference whatsoever. Voters are dug in already in this Election. Polls hardly moving.

  3. Crist is a great politican….he eases into his changes….he is married now and may run as a Democrat against Scott….he is the Houdini of Politics….but, things would be different if he became Senator.

  4. So, Charlie is speaking at the DNC Convention. Well, I guess he is now unofficially a true candidate for Governor now.

  5. Republicans can complain and whine all they want but Florida has MORE REGISTERED DEMOCRATS THAN REPUBLICANS!!! He endorses Obama and he knows Obama will endorse him against Scott in 2014. You guys cant tell me you dont see that he is lining himself up to go against Scott. As long as the Republicans continue to go to the extreme right, and the country continues to get blacker and browner in population, Republican losses will increase. Crist will win some Republican votes for sure. It’s just basic math people, and I think Crist knows it!

  6. Let us be honest about something …

    Floridians all knew that Crist was an Obama supporter even before he famously embraced him, even before he lost to Marco Rubio in his senate bid. Crist could have challenged Nelson this year as a Republican and spent time building a support network until then. He could not galvanize enough voters to turn out for him in the midterms, because he has always been a moderate. But he rushed his opportunity, because he has a dirty little secret. He made a deal with candidate Obama to disqualify FL’s primary where Clinton was expected to win. The bargaining chip was probably Democrat support to help him win, and he would be ostensibly bought and useless from that point onward. Now that Crist was outed and defeated, he has to cut another deal and fully cross over to the dark side. He wants that senate seat at all costs.

    Hillary lost the nomination because of the deal Crist, Robert Wexler and Obama cut.

  7. EG that is the dumbest thing I ever heard. It was Crist fault that Robert Wexler didn’t count the public vote in Florida and Michigan. Who in the hell are you kidding. Maybe Crist will get the ambassadorship to Israel instead of Bobby. lol lol lol This is so dumb. We wonder why no one wants to vote.

  8. Rod Smith is hands down the best possible D nominee for Gov. He can beat Scott in conservative North Florida which makes all the difference. Crist will hurt us.

  9. I agree with Ray but the reality again they might isolate the base like they did in 2010. Once everything comes out with Charlie. This shows you how weak the Democrats are from bottom to the top.

    Vote for none of the above…corrupt corrupt corrupt. Read that narrative in the paper.

  10. Dude, between Wexler and Crist, you have I want your votes to be counted but we won’t give you the up to date equipment to do it while they blame north county. These two guys need to get a room and get out of county already.

  11. And Alex Sink could beat Scott in conservative north Florida as well. This isn’t an “electoral vote” process, where whoever gets the most counties wins. This is a popular vote process. For every Democrat in Lafayette County that votes for Smith, five Democrats in Orange County will say “screw that, I’m not voting”. That is exactly the reason why we lost. Also, I might add, Smith was on the ticket last time.

  12. Good analysis.

    The Crist endorsement is big news and hopefully he can restore done excitement in a sagging state party.

  13. Is he going to bring Harry Sargeant with him? We got rid of both for a reason. You will see in due time.

  14. Could this Sargeant thing derail Crist completely? More details please!

    I sure hope not. Crist is the last great hope for a dying party in this state.

  15. We lost in 2010 because it was a wave election for Republicans, the fact that Alex was able to even stay competitive is a testament to her political skills.

  16. That might be true but also might not be. 1998 a good national year but awful for fla Dems – 2006 great national year but only decent for fla Dems.

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