The talk that Congressman Charlie Crist might once again seek a return the Governorship in 2022 has created a lot of conversation among Democratic activists. He wouldn’t be my first choice but certainly from where I sit, is preferable to some of the other names being floated. He’s also more qualified to hold the office than just about anyone who has ever run for Governor in the past. So let’s discuss this briefly, as I refute the two great talking points used against him.
National Democrats seem to believe that Ron DeSantis is vulnerable but they don’t live here and have had a long track record of being wrong about this state, so quite frankly I don’t care what they think anymore. My view is despite his complete mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and unemployment crisis in this state DeSantis starts as a heavy favorite for reelection.
Unlike Rick Scott who was clumsy in his use of power and ideological in his language, DeSantis has managed to become the heir apparent to the authoritarian Soviet-style wing of the GOP currently led by Donald Trump AND yet appear to many Floridians to be more moderate than Scott. No issue is this more apparent than on the environment, where DeSantis has been bad, but not nearly as bad as Scott or Jeb Bush. Given the potential Democratic opposition, DeSantis may actually be positioned decently on these issues to win NPA voters and hold those of Republican moderates. Again it all depends on who the Democrats nominate, and on this front Charile Crist would be a good nominee for the party.
Florida’s demographics, as we first talked about on this site in 2017, has been trending heavily toward the GOP. At that time Florida Democrats were touting Puerto Rican relocations to the state as the reason it was trending toward the Democrats in order to fool donors and the media – but that proved to be a red herring.
Florida Democrats, I suspect realized the fight was uphill and that unlike the four other mega-states in the south (Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia), suburban areas were largely stagnant or even slightly trending toward the GOP. In the other states I named the suburbs have since 2014 trended rapidly toward the Democrats. So they choose a single piece of data and overplayed it in order to maintain the interest of the national party, media and donor base. We can discuss the ethics of this another time, but the bottom line is that Florida is not looking like it is healthy for the Democrats.
So in short, unless we see a major DeSantis scandal, he probably wins. So let’s talk Crist for a minute. Here are some common complaints I heart about him.
False claim: Crist is a career politician who is just office shopping
Sure Crist first ran for the State Senate in 1986, was first elected in 1992. Since leaving the State Senate has run statewide six times and elected three times to Congress. In the 1990’s he was a conventional conservative Republican of that era but had a definitive moderate streak on environmental and education issues. But someone like him with a career of public service looks a safer pair of hands in these polarizing times. than he did when he last ran statewide in 2014.
President Biden’s model of experience was more an asset in 2020 than it was in 2008 when he was the most experienced Democrat running for President and could not even get out of the gate. People’s views of career politicians are probably different at this moment than they have been at any time in the recent past.
Besides, the last time Florida was even somewhat normal was when he was Governor!
False claim: Charlie Crist is a non-ideological opportunist who switched parties
This media narrative is particularly amusing since Crist won THREE STATEWIDE ELECTIONS as a Republican and has lost twice statewide since leaving the GOP.
Crist is a former Wake Forest Quarterback so let’s use a college football analogy. Crist leaving the GOP as a sitting Governor and eventually joining the Democrats is like being the starting QB at Alabama and a Heisman front-runner but deciding to transfer to Vanderbilt for your Senior season (I’ll admit I don’t watch sports outside soccer anymore so this analogy of viewing Vanderbilt in a dismissive way might be dated, if it is I apologize).
What I am trying to say with my not-so-colorful metaphor is that you don’t switch from the perennial winning team to the perennial losing one without some degree of conviction being involved in the move. Charlie Crist left the GOP because he had convictions – plain and simple.
The reality is this. Crist operated as a partisan from 1992 to 2001 (when he was Commissioner of Education), but began showing real signs of moderation when he was running for Attorney General. It was well known in 2002, that many GOP donors preferred either of his primary opponents. When he was Attorney General, he continued some of the more liberal investigations and ideas inherited from his predecessor, Democrat Bob Butterworth and did not in any way shape or form, march in lockstop with partisan GOP Governor Jeb Bush.
In 2006, he ran for Governor, was attacked from the right by Tom Gallagher in the primary but was nominated and elected anyway. As Governor, he started out as a moderate, emphasizing environmental issues and taking on the insurance industry. It was only in early 2009, when he felt he needed to win a GOP Primary for US Senate in 2010 and had just hugged President Obama that he tacked right. And that as we know didn’t last long – it was phony, disingenuous and ill-fated. Ultimately Crist was terrible at faking being a Tea Party conservative and by May 2010 he had quit the GOP.
Let me make this clear, Charlie Crist isn’t my first choice for Governor, but he is not my last choice either. I think it will be very tough for any Democrat to win. But since these past few weeks I have heard a lot of negativity about Crist from establishment Democrats who have a preferred candidate they are pushing, I felt pushback was needed since so many younger or newer politicos don’t know the actual record.