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Charlie Crist gambles on the left



Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is trying hard to court Democratic voters in his Senate campaign. AP Photo

In the days and weeks following Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to switch his party affiliation from Republican to Independent to run for Senate this year, the central question was where he would try to align himself ideologically.

Of late, Crist has made it very clear -- through a series of governing decisions and campaign hires -- that he has all but given up on GOP votes and sees his path to the Senate coming with independents and, more importantly, Democrats.

To wit:

* In the days just preceding his party switch, Crist vetoed a Republican bill instituting merit pay for teachers.

* Late last week, he vetoed another GOP bill forcing women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds.

* Crist has alsoscrubbed anti-abortion rights language from his campaign website, shifted against the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy for gays in the military, and in a Time Magazine video this week, suggested that the courts should deal with gay adoptions.

So far, Crist's strategy appears to be gaining him some ground on the ideological left.

Since he switched parties April 29, Crist and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) have risen in the polls, while Rep. Kendrick Meek, the presumed Democratic frontrunner, has dropped below 20 percent in most polls -- and now has a fight on his hands for the Democratic nomination with free-spending billionaire Jeff Greene.

The most recent survey, from Quinnipiac, had Crist leading Rubio 37 percent 33 percent with Meek at 17 percent.

In the survey, Crist was winning 51 percent of Independents, 37 percent of Democrats and 28 percent of Republicans.

It's plausible that Crist could maintain that sort of showing among independents. But can he continue to pull nearly four in ten Democratic votes away from Meek or Greene?(Politico's Jmart has a good piece on how Greene as the Democratic nominee would play right into Crist's hands when it comes to courting Democrats.)

There are two issues to ponder as to whether Crist can keep his share of Democrats.

First, once the Democratic nominee is chosen, a process that should raise the name identification of Meek and Greene, can Crist retain his strength?

Meek has long maintained that once Democrats get to know their nominee, they will quickly abandon Crist for the "real" Democrat. Worth noting: There is a "coming home" effect in most races featuring a viable third party candidate but few independent candidates are as well known -- and well funded -- as Crist.

The other complicating issue in Crist's courtship of Democrats is how his recent series of moves to the ideological left -- in the governing decisions mentioned earlier as well as various issue positions -- play with voters.

On offshore drilling, Crist supported it when he was a vice presidential possibility in 2008 and now, in light of the BP oil spill and his Senate campaign, opposes it.

After opposing President Obama's first Supreme Court pick, Sonia Sotomayor, he now supports Court nominee Elena Kagan.

And he has left open the possibility of voting for a Democratic Senate majority leader.

Republicans also point out that Crist sought the AFL-CIO endorsement (he lost it to Meek) and attended a trial lawyers convention in Orlando last week -- further evidence of his outreach to left-leaning constituencies.

Are these moves seen by voters as genuine evolutions on issues (the preferred Crist storyline) or as standard political flip-floppery from a politician who has turned it into an art form (which is the Rubio/Meek/Greene narrative)?

Crist, up until this Senate race, has demonstrated a remarkable ability to align himself with where the Florida electorate stands at any given time. Can he pull off the trick one more time by co-opting Democrats and turning the race into a battle between himself and Rubio?

-- Aaron Blake

By The Fix  |  June 16, 2010; 10:48 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

Charlie Crist is a native Floridian, not an import. He has served Florida well and long in statewide office. The immigrant Republicans (80% are not native Floridians) have moved too far to the right and have abandoned Charlie. He did not abandon them. Charlie clearly is the middle-of-the-road moderate that most voters will identify with. He will win soundly, standing on his public service record. Something that none of his opponents will be able to do.

Charlie walks much more closely to those other great Florida politicians, Lawton Childs and Bob Graham. Go, Charlie!

Posted by: old_sarge | June 18, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Charlie should just go ahead and become a Democrat.

That way he could come out of the closet and get even more votes.

Posted by: biggerjake | June 17, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Charlie should just go ahead and become a Democrat.

That way he could come out of the closet and get even more votes.

Posted by: biggerjake | June 17, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Charlie should just go ahead and become a Democrat.

That way he could come out of the closet and get even more votes.

Posted by: biggerjake | June 17, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

He has been an Obama man since Obama was inaugurated. Even his wife, when they both went to that party was flirting with Obama, or at least it appeared in the videos. He is just another Arlen Spector; whatever it takes to win, right? I hope they destroy him in Florida once & for all. His kind does not care about the people he cares about his own tail.

Posted by: egw7777 | June 17, 2010 5:32 AM | Report abuse

At what point does it become obvious that an individual has no honor and can't be trusted? He's betraying the Party that supported him his entire career for no other reason then the pursuit of personal power and if he senses the need to turn against the Democrats who mighht be able to salvage his career don't be too surprised if he turns on them as well.

He epitomizes everything that many of us with some real experience have come to detest about our present political class and our so calloed leaders.

Posted by: Sproing | June 16, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

I don't see how Crist will win the more loyal Democrats unless he pledges to caucus with them if he's elected. But that might cost him Republican and independent votes. Meanwhile, if he says he'll caucus with Republicans his Democratic support would dry up quick. I imagine Crist will try to avoid answering this question as long as possible

Posted by: thecorinthian | June 16, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Obama tar balls (Obama-balls) are now ruining the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico.


How are those greek columns at the Denver stadium working for you now?


___________________________________


Obama's people AT MMS DID NOT MAKE SURE THE SAFETY INSPECTIONS WERE CONDUCTED PROPERLY - OBAMA IS DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE OIL SPILL AND THE EXPLOSION.


How is electing an inexperienced an unqualified person working for you now ???

Posted by: 37thand0street | June 16, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Good riddance. Go with Specter. Now let's get McCain and Lieberman out of there. All these politicians that wet their finger and put it in the air need to go! We need people with principles.

Posted by: vitaglubet | June 16, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I won't be voting for him. Crist doesn't believe in anything.

Posted by: moebius22 | June 16, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Crist has shown that he blows with the political winds....in the present economy, with a government going bankrupt and rife with corruption among its career politicians - it is to be hoped that voters realize he is not the right person to send to DC. As a Floridian, he will not be getting my vote....I'm looking at Jeff Greene seriously....I prefer a businessman to an attorney any day.

Posted by: LMW6 | June 16, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Crist isn't courting the Left, just the 40% of the electorate in the center. The only question is, can he get it? The 25 to 30% of the electorate on the right are going Rubio regardless. The 20% of the hardcore left in the democratic party are Meek's or Greene's, regardless. That leaves half the electorate, plus as much of the nonvoting electorate as Crist can get out to vote up for grabs. Crist isn't taking particularly leftish stands, just stands that woo the center, and are described by the rabid right as Leftist.

Could Crist, Lincoln Chaffee, Ross Perot, and Warren Buffet be the nucleus for a viable centrist party?

Posted by: ceflynline | June 16, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

A politician is a politician...that being said,I am a Florida democrat,who only voted outside my party once....and that was for Charlie Crist....and yes,I will do it again!

Posted by: puredemo | June 16, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

When the fanatics who are running the Reptilican Party realize how badly they've alienated the middle, it will be too late...

Posted by: braultrl | June 16, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: bsimon1

Attacking his integrity on the position changes is fair, but I think Crist has a ready made rebuttal that will resonate with voters. He will say that he was trying to be a loyal Republican, and claimed positions he didn't truly believe in order to stayin good standing with that party. And he will say the GOP has moved too far right, and he no longer feels welcome
________________

It will resonate with voters who give anyone the benefit of the doubt as long as he says what they want to hear. Either he was dishonest then, or he is now. Either way, he lacks integrity. It's ok, like I said before, integrity isn't necessary in politics...heck, it probably hurts more than it helps. The bottom line is his position changes coincided directly with his place in the polls. I'm not buying that he has many true convictions, either way. I don't live in FL, so I have no vote in the matter. If I did, I wouldn't vote before I'd vote for a man like Crist, regardless of how much his current positions aligned with my own.

Posted by: latrops | June 16, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

~

Of the three, I believe that Mr. Crist is the most qualified.

Mr. Rubio is too far right for a large swath of the state.

Mr. Meeks does not really seem to possess the right stuff to be a Senator.

When Mr. Crist is just "himself" and not trying to appeal to the far right, he seems well-aligned with the average Florida voter.

~

Posted by: DickeyFuller | June 16, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

latrops writes
"I wish I could believe he did have integrity and was being true to his convictions. Unfortunately, when a person's convictions change as the result of being behind in polls, it is very difficult to give a guy the benefit of the doubt."

Attacking his integrity on the position changes is fair, but I think Crist has a ready made rebuttal that will resonate with voters. He will say that he was trying to be a loyal Republican, and claimed positions he didn't truly believe in order to stayin good standing with that party. And he will say the GOP has moved too far right, and he no longer feels welcome in the GTP. And so he has freed himself from the need to appease the party base & now has refound his principles.

That message will resonate with moderate repubs who are left wondering what happened to their party, and it will resonate with independents who find both parties excesssively ideological, and it will resonate with conservative & moderate Dems who don't find much of an appeal in the excessively meek Meek, or the excessively unmeek Greene.

Rubio will, meanwhile, try to pivot towards the middle, after taking out Crist from the right for the Repub nomination. And the swing voters and moderate voters will find Crist's change of heart and change of positions far more credible than those of the darling-of-the-right-flavor-of-the-month-or-three-ago Marco Rubio.

advantage: Crist

Posted by: bsimon1 | June 16, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Who is the bumbler here Mr. B. Bumble? Looks like your own name confirms that you cannot stay on topic but twist every subject to your ready made argument. Crist is the subject of this article if you haven't got the time to read it but are too busy pasting.

The question is whether he has any integrity or is only finally coming round to seeing the light. A bit of both probably. The Florida Senate race should be interesting.

CB
________________

I wish I could believe he did have integrity and was being true to his convictions. Unfortunately, when a person's convictions change as the result of being behind in polls, it is very difficult to give a guy the benefit of the doubt. He was getting beat by Rubio in the republican primary, and his response was to get out of the republican party and change several of his previously stated positions. He may lack integrity, but this is politics, so that doesn't really matter anyway.

Posted by: latrops | June 16, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

All Crist has done is show that he is a typical politician--spineless, in it for himself and without principles. The voters will see that in November and he will lose as will all other politicians without principle in the country.

Posted by: columbiaheights | June 16, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

All Crist has done is show that he is a typical politician--spineless, in it for himself and without principles. The voters will see that in November and he will lose as will all other politicians without principle in the country.

Posted by: columbiaheights | June 16, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

You should head over to a Pelousy fundraiser, get a few drinks in your belly and go out and search the streets for some well dressed students to beat up.

that seems to make Libs feel better about their losing prospects.

Posted by: bumblingberry | June 16, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Who is the bumbler here Mr. B. Bumble? Looks like your own name confirms that you cannot stay on topic but twist every subject to your ready made argument. Crist is the subject of this article if you haven't got the time to read it but are too busy pasting.

The question is whether he has any integrity or is only finally coming round to seeing the light. A bit of both probably. The Florida Senate race should be interesting.

CB

Posted by: chrisbrown12 | June 16, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Rubio figured out quick the tea party problem and dumped them. Wonder how they feel about that? They are directionless, a beast without a head.

If you hate government, why should anyone vote to put you in charge of government?


"Tea party loses some steam after primaries

The polls hadn't even closed Tuesday when "tea party" activists in Nevada started sniping at one another over whether Sharron Angle, the soon-to-be Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, was the best candidate to bring down Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid.


In Virginia, tea partiers vented on blogs and to reporters about the movement's inability to coalesce around a single, strong candidate in two House races, resulting in the nomination of establishment candidates instead.

The national tea party movement has never had a central organization or single leader; in fact, it has boasted the opposite. But Tuesday's primary results provided fresh evidence of the amorphous network's struggle to convert activist anger and energy into winning results. Frustrated and lacking agreement on what to do next, self-identified tea party leaders say the movement may be in danger of breaking apart before it ever really comes together.

"No one owns the tea party brand, and that's kind of the problem," said Brendan Steinhauser, grass-roots director for FreedomWorks, which organizes tea party groups. "In Virginia -- it breaks my heart. You've got six self-appointed tea party candidates and one establishment guy. You're not going to beat the establishment guy in that situation."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/11/AR2010061105726.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: drindl | June 16, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

12Bar -- After the way the Rs treated him, my guess is, oh yes, he will definitely caucus with Dems.

Posted by: drindl | June 16, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

This race is now a clear Rubio vs. Crist contest. Rubio has all of the excitement behind him in conservative circles but Crist has around 51% of Independents, will likely carry around 25% of Republicans and maybe 40%-50% of Democrats. If Crist gets this kind of voter approval, he will win the contest. Rubio must carry, perhaps, 80% of Republicans to win the contest. Meek vs. Greene in the D primary may not matter much. I think Meek will pull it out, but neither of them have a real shot to be the next US Senator of Florida.

Posted by: reason5 | June 16, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

who's the worst president ever? three options - Carter, buchanan, Obungler?

During his entire first term, Carter's record doesn't touch the Obama administration's record in its first year and a half. Obama has already tacitly OK'd the Iranian nuclear program and derided Israel's nuclear program. He has allowed Iranian protestors to be slaughtered in the streets without so much as a peep for days on end. Obama has allowed the Russians to sponsor an uprising in Kyrgyzstan that resulted in the removal of a U.S. airbase. He has lent legitimacy to an Islamist Turkish government and sold American debt to a communist Chinese government that supports North Korea. He has presided over the largest oil spill in world history in the Gulf of Mexico and spent his efforts blaming everyone but himself.

He's poised to raise our taxes at the end of the year. He's pushing for comprehensive "immigration reform" that will really act as an amnesty for illegal immigrants. He has denigrated Arizona before Mexico, bowed before the king of Saudi Arabia and the Chinese president and the Japanese emperor, hugged a Venezuelan quasi-dictator, and undermined a constitutional uprising in Honduras. He has pushed carbon taxes and gas taxes and estate taxes. He has propped up unfit mortgage borrowers and penalized those who pay their mortgage on time. He has bailed out his buddies in the banking industry and nationalized the auto and health industries for the benefit of his union friends.

He has insulted the Cambridge police and defended Muslim terrorists like Maj. Nidal Hassan. He has utilized advisers who are Marxists (former Green Jobs Czar Van Jones), anti-Semites (foreign policy adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, special adviser Samantha Power, National Security Adviser Adm. James Jones), racists (Attorney General Eric Holder), sycophantic pro-Islamists (Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan), kooks (Director of White House Office of Science and Technology John Holdren), perverts (Safe Schools Czar Kevin Jennings), and paid thugs (Rahm Emanuel).

When Obama took office, the national debt was just under $10 trillion. Now it is $12 trillion, and by 2015, it will be at least $19.6 trillion. Unemployment under Obama increased to 9.7 percent, up from 7.6 percent when Bush left office. The inflation rate has yet to explode, but most economists believe it will have to unless Obama drastically raises taxes, destroying the economy even further.

Carter can't touch this guy.

Posted by: bumblingberry | June 16, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Who will Crist caucus with when he wins? It doesn't seem so crazy now to say it will be the Democrats.

Posted by: 12BarBlues | June 16, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse


Way to go Charlie! Rubio is not only "drill,baby,drill", he is for letting BP pay dividends to their stockholders! Bank of America, Goldman Sacks,and others need that money, more than gulf states fisherman and businesses! Endorsed by Cheney, father of the spill. Plus Rubio got the most oil co. donations in Florida,what a puppet! Crist is the only hope for Florida, otherwise its wingnut extremism!

Posted by: roosboys | June 16, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"By the way Chris what was the term you used on Rubio's pro and anti stands on the Arizona Immigration law?"

he doesn't mention stuff that doesn't fit his 'republicans rising' meme, marie.

it's like 'all the news that fits the beltway narrative.'

Posted by: drindl | June 16, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

"Rubio's pro and anti stands on the Arizona Immigration law"


hasn't he flip-flop-flipped on that one, having held three different positions on a two position issue? "I was for it before I was against it and am for it again, now. Check back again after the next round of polling."

Posted by: bsimon1 | June 16, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

"Are these moves seen by voters as genuine evolutions on issues (the preferred Crist storyline) or as standard political flip-floppery from a politician who has turned it into an art form (which is the Rubio/Meek/Greene narrative)?"

I was waiting for this! It had to come!


Yes - As soon as Crist came close to being a DEM he would be accused of being a flip flopper when he changed his position on anything. That term is reserved for Dems so I guess he it is now official when The Fix tags him: he is in Dem territory officially.

By the way Chris what was the term you used on Rubio's pro and anti stands on the Arizona Immigration law?

Posted by: mariewilson11 | June 16, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

"Perhaps the voters aren't necessarily looking for an outsider to represent them.

Maybe they just want someone who is sane."


i think that's a very good point, dawd.

Posted by: drindl | June 16, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

This is how republicans manage to alienate anyone who's not a whitebread christian:

"Religion could emerge as a wedge issue in this year’s race for governor after Republican state Sen. Jake Knotts’ reference to GOP front-runner Nikki Haley as a “r*ghead” and voter confusion about Haley’s religious conversion to Christianity from Sikhism."

It won’t be Haley’s first tussle over religion.

South Carolina’s governor’s race has veered from sexual allegations to, more recently, questions of religion as some have questioned the faith of GOP frontrunner Nikki Haley, who was raised a Sikh and converted to Christianity. The issue may not go away in the fall, either. "

Posted by: drindl | June 16, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Flipping on offshore drilling should be no problem in light of the current catastrophe. Just say you were wrong and you gave the oil companies too much credit and you will not make that mistake again.

Flipping on gay rights, abortion, and the supreme court, however, is obvious pandering. Crist supported the stimulus before he realized that he would have to oppose every single thing Obama tried to do in order to win the Republican primary. Once he realized it he fell in line, but it was too late. Now he's running back to the left.

Democrats should recognize Crist's careerism and try to take advantage of it by getting him on their side. Get Meek to step out and send Obama to campaign for Crist; this would be a huge pickup for the Dems.

Posted by: Adam_W | June 16, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

CC, I wouldn't say that Crist is gambling as much as he is hedging his bets. IMO, most americans are fiscally conservative and socially liberal. They want their government to fix things that need fixing but not to invade too much if there isn't any real problem (ie Oil cleanup). I would expect that Crist will pivot and start talking about Fiscal discipline in the near future. That way he can shape the debate on reducing the deficit etc now that he has strengthened his socially liberal positions. Rubio runs into the problem that he has the fiscal conservative part down, but is also VERY socially conservative. Meeks has the opposite problem. Basically, Crist is running as a blue dog Democrat.

Posted by: AndyR3 | June 16, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Kind of on the topic, but I wonder if 2010 will turn out to be the year of the moderates. Look at the special elections so far since Obama's election, notably the ones that are in close districts. Dems have been winning by being moderate. Scott Murphy is a moderate, so are Bill Owens and Mark Critz. On the Republican side, Charles Djou, Scott Brown, the govs in NJ and VA all presented themselves as moderates.

And you look at some of the extremists who are running. Rand Paul and Sharon Angle are both nominees who look like they will make their races needlessly competitive if not losses. On the other side, Mike Castle is almost certain to win Joe Biden's seat in a very blue Delaware and Mark Kirk is looking pretty good in a very blue Illinois for Obama's old seat. Charlie Crist has to be looking like the favorite to win the Florida seat. All moderates.

Perhaps the voters aren't necessarily looking for an outsider to represent them.

Maybe they just want someone who is sane.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 16, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Crist is clearly quick on his feet. He can use his megaphone as gov and put Rubio on the defensive for his past far-right statements. Looks good to win. Unfortunately, Meeks just doesn't seem to have it.

Posted by: drindl | June 16, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

More on-the-ground coverage of Charlie Crist's campaign at saintpetersblog.com

Posted by: saintpetersblog | June 16, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

More on-the-ground coverage of Charlie Crist's campaign at saintpetersblog.com

Posted by: saintpetersblog | June 16, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Charlie Crist is a smart guy, a good guy and a smart guy.

Hey Charlie, if they won't give you love in Florida, please consider California.

We really need a good guy like Charlie Crist here because he would fit the mold here perfectly.

Florida can have Carly Fiorina, the nut case. I know Fiorina is running for the Seante against Barbara Boxer, but there is absolutely NO WAY Californians are going to vote for any Tea Bagging wacko.


Posted by: lindalovejones | June 16, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Crist is in the catbird seat. He's grabbed the middle, leaving little room for Rubio to moderate himself for the general. Meek has been a non-factor; that Greene is now challenging him may well drive more Dems to Crist rather than 'bring them home'.

The Repubs who have been winning - McDonnell & Cristie for instance - have campaigned as moderates. For the FL Senate that ground is thoroughly staked out by Crist. As long as Meek remains a non-factor, Crist is best positioned to win this seat.

Posted by: bsimon1 | June 16, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

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