Angst About Potential Crist Candidacy Growing Among Activists

Charlie Crist continues to dominate the conversation among Democrats across the state. But what a few short months ago felt like an inevitable coronation has turned messy for a multitude of reasons. Knee-jerk pro-Crist reactions among some establishment Democrats including many who leave comments on this website state that the party and its activists should get behind Crist because “he can win,” however as time goes on more and more questions arise about Crist’s overall electability.  Some activists I have spoken to in the past few weeks have gradually shifted from being uneasy about Crist to being downright hostile. Others have gone from being indifferent to a Crist candidacy to being concerned about one.

Interestingly as I’ve blogged regularly about Crist’s record over the past month the comments which were at onetime downright hostile to my writing at first then turned fairly mixed and now more anti-Crist. While by no means a scientific survey this does mirror the changing sentiment I am picking up across the state. Below I will dissect the numerous issues with a potential Crist candidacy.

As the year began, Rick Scott remained unpopular and Crist’s potential Gubernatorial campaign seemed in theory a good idea. Many activists were concerned quietly about the potential Crist campaign but not articulating these concerns in a large way. While Scott’s poll numbers continue to lag, economic indicators in the state are most definitely improving and the GOP can easily contrast Scott’s record of job creation with Crist’s record job contraction.

Many Democrats who are tired of being talked down to by party donors and leadership are concerned with the disproportionate influence of a few “power brokers” particularly John Morgan, the name which keeps coming up in discussions. The perception that Crist is being forced on activists remains prominent in recent discussions.

Crist’s ideological record has come to the forefront in recent weeks. This website last week looked in-depth at Crist’s  shameful record on guns and previously at his right-wing Supreme Court appointments, while others have brought forward his poor record on school “choice” initiatives of the past and his almost 100% anti-women’s reproductive rights record.

Elected officials in the Democratic Party tend to be comfortable with Crist. This was true when he was Governor as well and owed more to his personality contrasts with his predecessor Jeb Bush than to any real policy or ideological considerations. Where Bush was prickly and abrasive, Crist was soothing and comfortable to deal with. This actually helped the GOP legislators at it served to disarm some of the Democratic opposition to Crist in the 2007-2009 sessions.

But those elected officials who have forced bad nominees down the throats of activists in the past are not being given the leeway to dictate this selection as they were in the past. Couple this with the growing energy and excitement perhaps surprisingly building around Senator Nan Rich as the “anti-Crist” candidate among activists and the elected officials are put in a tough spot. The Tampa Bay Times outlined yesterday that the buzz about a potential Bill Nelson candidacy owes itself largely to the fears of a Crist nomination by many leading Democrats.

Then we have the overriding possible issue of ethics. Activist newbies think the Scott administration is most corrupt in Florida history. But that is a fallacy, because while Scott has continued the GOP policies of cronyism, entitlement and zero accountability, that culture was inherited from Crist whose ethical track record is spotty. Hopes that the Jim Greer trial would have given closure to these issues were always misplaced- Crist’s connections to scandal go far beyond Greer and the RPOF. Since his scandals with the RPOF go beyond Greer, it is possible another shoe will drop in the future. As we discussed last week, a Crist candidacy could effectively take any issues of ethics off the table for the Democrats and hand Scott an easy re-election. It is too early to tell how deep Crist’s ethical troubles go but the issue is prominent in discussions.

Crist also may serve as a motivating factor to turn out Republicans in an off-year election when an unpopular incumbent Rick Scott is running. Concerns among Republicans about a lack of enthusiasm for Scott perhaps get corrected with the nomination of a “turncoat” who most rank-in-file Republicans have developed a strong disdain for.

Crist may feel he can skate by as he did for years in the GOP where activists did not necessarily get on with Crist and he won competitive primaries anyway in 2002 (for A.G.) and 2006 (for Governor). However it must be remembered that Crist would have been crushed in a GOP US Senate Primary in 2010 by Marco Rubio had he not abandoned the Republican Party at the time. It is also worth noting that Crist only received 29% of the vote statewide while running as an NPA in this race. While that is in no way conclusive evidence that won’t be able to win a Governor’s race as a Democrat it clearly demonstrates he is not the type of world beater many of his proponents claim.

The move away from Crist is by no means conclusive, but at this point his unannounced candidacy is already taking on water.

13 comments

  1. floridian · ·

    Could you provide the evidence of growing excitement around Nan Rich? I do not see that at all. I think this blog is helping Crist. The negative press and the questions surrounding him need to be addressed. Better to do that early than late. Nothing but a full vetting is in order before Crist decides.

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    1. Talk to activists…No poll shows this just yet, but a general sense is developing. Some are seeking other candidates as well, but crowds for Senator Rich’s events are getting bigger and interest in her campaign is growing.

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  2. Do not forget he said Sarah Palin was more qualified than Obama to be President in 2008.

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  3. Because of Charlie Crist’s ambition, we now have Governor Scott and Senator Rubio.

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  4. The main argument against Nan is lack of name recognition. Name rec can be built…. bad records and policies cannot be undone

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  5. I find it inconceivable that Democrats are rushing to support the same man they worked against in 2006.

    While there may have been a progressive shift by Crist since then, I still believe it is more opportunistic than an embrace of Democratic principles.

    Would Crist be better than Scott? Probably…but it’s the measure of that increment of change that concerns me.

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  6. WN_Morris · ·

    I am unconvinced by Nan Rich, as age and geography tend to be a question make with her. But in a head to head between her and Crist I think most activists are with her, and believe she would upset him.I hope we get another candidate, but if not she has to be our horse.

    As far as Crist is concerned he needs to be stopped at all costs. I am even willing to give Scott another term so we can figure it our than to have our party turned over to the Republicans like Crist, Couson and BARRY EDWARDS someone this site needs to pay close attention to. Come on Kartik, I know you are on it like white on rice most of the time but you have ignored this serious issue of a Republican consultant with a criminal record coming over to the Ds thanks to Rouson and Crist.

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  7. Crist is corrupt and wrong on the issues. Let them run Crist and bring down all the corruption specific to South Florida. Mr. Wexler there is a paper trail and it does not count votes. It counts CORRUPTION CASES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  8. I heard Aaronson and Abruzzo are running as a team.

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  9. Crist needs to announce he’s not running already and that he’s committed to helping other Democrats win in 14. He can run in 16 against Rubio.

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  10. TY you are correct. That is exactly what he needs to do. He needs to put on his big boy pants, suck it up and start raising money for a Democratic nominee and Tant with the candidate’s campaign needs to be check ALL of the pennies and dollars Mr. Crist & others touch. We know they often touch tainted money. Tant needs to watch fo the Tait

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  11. We need Crist. What other D can actually win statewide?

    Any suggestions?????

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  12. […] Governor Crist’s past positions and record have been peculating among Democratic activists for months now. Perhaps a Sink candidacy if it comes to fruition would give Crist an out should he want to […]

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