Charlie Crist could be running the most progressive gubernatorial campaign in over a quarter century

The era of partisan polarization appears complete when a man who won statewide office three times as a Republican is running the most progressive campaign for Governor of our state in at least a quarter century. Without question, Charlie Crist’s previous record as a leader in the state would put him to the right of center on the vast majority of issues but his campaign is being run on the most progressive platform and with the most liberal rhetoric we have seen in some time from a Florida Democrat running for Governor.

In the last several “off-year” cycles, the Democrats have nominated candidates who have chosen to run to the middle and focus on convincing independents and “swing voters” to cast a ballot against Jeb Bush, Charlie Crist and Rick Scott respectively. But what has been proven in the last few “off-year” cycles is that modern elections in Florida  and in fact nationally are turnout wars between competing ideologies. The 24-hour news cycle fed by cable news and social media has ensured that the former wild swings in the electorate are no longer a regular occurrence. As a result ticket-splitting has also grown less common than anytime since before the New Deal and voters, even so-called and self-proclaimed moderates are hardened in their voting patterns. Unlike the 1970s and 1980s when many people split their tickets in Florida and swung from party to party depending on the candidates and issues of the day, the 2000s have witnessed hardened voting patterns and the efforts of the Democrats to nominate candidates who tried to appeal to mythical independents fall flat on its face.

Crist’s campaign has focused on the base- Obama voters concerned about healthcare, economic security, the excesses of insurance companies, environmental activism and the cronyism of the Republicans in this state led by Rick Scott. The themes Crist have hit are things that often times were absent from Democratic campaigns in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Some of these items were even absent in 1990, 1994, and 1998 when the Democrats controlled large elements of North Florida and did not want to “offend” voters in that region.

The last classic liberal to be nominated by the Democrats for Governor was Jacksonville-based State Rep. Steve Pajcic in 1986. Pajcic was (and continues to be) one of the state’s leading trial attorneys and a great consumer advocate. His running mate was a more conservative State Senator Frank Mann of Fort Myers. Pajcic was crushed on the same day Bob Graham won a landslide election to the US Senate while the Democrats lost seven State Senate seats, souring the party on liberal nominees and liberal candidates for a generation.

But the success of national Democrats should have been instructive to Floridians. Bill Clinton won Florida in 1996 by running aggressively on gun control and environmental protection. Al Gore’s populist economic message resonated with Florida voters in 2000, and Barack Obama, perceived to be a hardcore liberal, carried the state in 2008 and 2012. I firmly believe Charlie Crist can connect with the party’s progressive base and those who chose not to turn out to vote for Alex Sink by emphasizing the populist stands he already holds on economic and environmental issues. As ironic as it sounds, Charlie Crist the former Republican Governor is running the most Democratic campaign for state’s top office in the General Election since 1998 or perhaps even since 1986.

Democrats should understand that the election results in 2012 prove one thing: politics has changed irrevocably and firing up a party’s base is now far more important than appealing to theoretical “swing” voters. Part of the reason “swing” voters played such a role in the 1990s, in retrospect, was because voter turnout was significantly lower than it had been in the 1960s and lower than it is today. The reality is that moderate/swing voters are minimal in numbers and efforts to appeal to them are offset by losing potential voters or activists on the left. The Democrats have botched this repeatedly over the past decade in trying to execute a flawed strategy at the state level. Charlie Crist, a master politicians who has been elected statewide three times knows better and is showing his political skill in this campaign.

I remain confident that if Charlie Crist follows the Obama playbook and emphasizes his populist stands he has a good chance to return to the Governor’s Mansion. Crist’s poll numbers should not frighten anybody if the Democrats work the base properly. The polls do not reflect the connection Crist’s campaign themes are making with the base of the Democratic Party. Running as a strong progressive, Crist is showing his ability to understand what it takes to be a die and the wool Democrat. Perhaps nothing is quite like the zeal of a convert!

15 comments

  1. This ia really good news. Florida tried the Tea Party approach and it was a epic failure. So now is the time for a progressive like Charlie Crist and Gabrial Rothblatt for the 8th Congressional Districtt.

    The key to victory for both Charlie Crist and Gabriel Rothblatt is to win the Independent vote. There has been a marked increase in people registering as Independents.

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  2. Bill Clinton in 1996? The guy who signed both welfare reform and the Defense of Marriage Act into law?

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    1. No argument there nationally but exit polls showed the environment and gun control tipped the scales in Florida.

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  3. OrlandoChris · ·

    Crist is fooling all of you. He is a Republican folks.

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    1. It is indeed a probablty that Charlie Crist is in deed a Republican

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      1. Broward Bob · ·

        please learn to spell

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    2. OrlandoChris · ·

      I’m trying to inform you before it’s too late. Or you can wait it out, crossing your fingers, hoping he isn’t lying to you and if he gets in office, you will see him turn his back on all of you. You won’t be able to say you weren’t warned.

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      1. Broward Bob · ·

        2 dumb comments in a row, orlando. give up now.

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  4. Doug Head · ·

    The expression “dyed in the wool” refers to a state of steadfastness, especially with respect to one’s political, religious or social beliefs. The expression comes from the fact that fabric can be dyed in a number of ways. The woven fabric may be dyed after it is complete, or the threads may be dyed before they are woven. When a color is “dyed in the wool,” the wool itself is dyed before being spun into threads, so the colour is least likely to fade or change. (Dyes: Webster’s Quotations, Facts and Phrases. Icon Group International. 2008, p. 344.)

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  5. Kartik, as an avid Nan Rich supporter nothing would make me happier than to see Charlie take her Progressive ideas to Tallahassee. We desperately need a change in how Florida is being dragged back into the days of Jim Crow and “Inequality for All “. I am hoping that Charlie pounds Scott back into the stone age in the debate. This is no time to be middle of the road. We tried that and got run over.

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    1. sandyo4era · ·

      Progressive? Charlie C?

      CHEW ON THIS A WHILE:
      Charlie Refuses to Back a 91 year old bill (ERA) that will make sex discriminations, male AND female, a violation of the US Constitution. The Constitution acts as a contract of this Nation with its (so far, male only) population: women are mentioned in that contract Just Once (the Vote). MEN ARE MENTIONED 39 TIMES!

      Ladies, THAT’S why we are forced to grovel for any snipped of gender-equal treatment. And that’s BECAUSE…..NOTHING…..ELSE…..WORKS!
      Florida House Republicans have refused even to hold hearings on the hugely popular (88% or 91%, depending..) Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) because , they say, they are “worried” that ERA will “hurt Business”!
      Meanwhile, Business is soaring–just take a look at the Stock Market!!
      But, for the average American Business profits do not trickle down. In fact, since Business REFUSES to pay male-equal wages to women–same job, same hours, same credentials–Business pockets what they should e paying women and gleefully add that to Profits.

      AND, then Business pays little or no taxes on Profits! YOU and I though, must pay a part of our Earnings as taxes.

      BUT, dear Taxpayers, YOU and I make up the difference. As 1 in 7 elderly women wind up in poverty thanks to that Corporate Greed, we taxpayers must pitch in to those women’s survival needs: Public Assistance; Food Stamps, Medicaid and other!!

      SO, DOES CORPORATE GREED COST YOU ?
      Besides, every penny earned by elderly women, past or present, and NOT paid out to her, costs her family in budget-tightening.

      Corporate greed in refusing women duly earned wages is NOT someone else’s problem——> IT’S YOUR PROBLEM, TOO!

      CHARLIE CRIST, THIS IS THE LAST TIME WE ASK:

      Stop pandering to women by offering us a pittance, piece by piece , of gender-equal treatment..MEN< rise up, YOU need ERA too, to provide to you the sex-equal treatment you deserve from this ":democracy"!

      DO AS YOU PROMISED ME AND MY 300 000 IN Natl ERA Alliance TWICE, PUBLICLY!..

      FULLY , WHOLE-HEARTEDLY SUPPORT RATIFICATION OF THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT.
      KEEP YOUR PROMISE, CHARLIE, or suffer waffling fever as a covert Republican.

      sandy oestreich sandyo@PassERA.org 2PassERA.org Fbk: Pass The Equal Rights Amendment

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    2. you got that right joe.

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  6. The fact that Charlie Crist may be a Republican. He is, however, a better a Republican that Rick Scott. Rick Scott has proven to be one of the worst Governos in the USA.

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  7. Mark Lynn · ·

    I remember the ’86 wipeout real well. I first backed Ralph Renick in the Dem primary for guv & after he dropped out backed then-AG Jim Smith. Pajcic was a strong primary contender, but a weak GE candidate. In retrospect, the party (and I) should have backed Harry Johnston. I think he would have beaten Bob Martinez. My State Senate District was one of those which flipped from D to R that year. Sen. Joe Gersten (D) gave up the seat for a longshot bid for AG, and it fell into the hands of then-State Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R). I volunteered in the campaign of her opponent, Steve Zack, who a few years later became FL Bar President. The neighboring district also flipped as Ileana’s husband Dexter unseated Sen. Roberta Fox (D). In Dade, we also failed to unseat any of the Class of ’84 State House Members. The party had targeted Rep. Al Gutman and Rep. Rudy Garcia. Neither of their much touted challengers made a dent. Other than Bob Graham’s victory it was pretty much an election to forget for Dems.

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  8. […] BLOG POST OF THE DAY: CRIST COULD BE RUNNING THE MOST PROGRESSIVE GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN IN OVER A QUARTER CENTURY via Kartik Krishnaiyer of the Florida Squeeze […]

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