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Why Charlie Crist is no Joe Lieberman

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman -- alike, yet different. AP photos by Steve Cannon and Alex Brandon

Speculation continues to run rampant regarding Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's (R) political future with some outlets insisting that a speech explaining the party-switch is already in the works while other sources tell the Fix that no such move is in the offing.

With the "will he or won't he" debate running wild, the most commonly cited comparison to where Crist finds himself is Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) who, after losing the Democratic primary to cable television magnate Ned Lamont in 2006, ran and won as an independent.

That comparison is inexact for several big reasons. Here they are (with a hat tip to the Post's Paul "PK" Kane who helped us refine them):

* A real three-way race: When Lieberman decided to run as an independent in the general election, national Republicans -- including the Bush White House -- made clear that they were fine with GOP votes going to the Connecticut Senator, a tacit blessing that made Derby Mayor Alan Schlesinger, the actual Republican nominee, totally irrelevant in the race. Lieberman wound up spending $17 million to Lamont's $20 million while Schlesinger raised and spent just north of $200,000. That scenario will not be repeated in Florida this year as national Democrats show no signs of walking away from Rep. Kendrick Meek's (D) candidacy -- particularly with polling that shows a competitive three-way race. With Meek and former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) both running well-funded, serious efforts, Crist runs the real danger of lacking any sort of electoral base to depend on.

* Standing on principle: In the wake of his loss to Lamont, most general election voters attributed the defeat to the fact that Lieberman refused to back away from his support for the war in Iraq -- a position he cast as a stand on principle. (Liberal Democrats would almost certainly disagree with that characterization but it was the prevailing perception among many Connecticut voters.) Losing on principle made Lieberman a sympathetic -- and hence electable -- candidate in a general election. Crist will have a harder time making the "principled stand" justification if he switches as it will have come after months of polling showing him with next-to-no path to victory in the Republican primary against Rubio. If he does switch, expect Crist to make some sort of "I didn't leave the party, the party left me" appeal to independent voters but Rubio is doing everything he can to frame a Crist switch in the most crass political terms possible.

* Show me the money: Lieberman's Democratic fundraising friends may have largely abandoned him once he decided to run as an independent but it didn't really matter much because the Connecticut Senator had a built-in national Jewish fundraising base. And, that money base was never going to abandon Lieberman -- their most loyal champion -- no matter what party banner he ran under. Crist has no such national fundraising base and, as is evidenced by his lackluster ($1.1 million raised) last quarter, money follows momentum. In a state the size of Florida with so many -- and so many expensive -- media markets, the $7.5 million Crist had on hand at the end of March won't be near enough. He spent $20 million when he ran and won the governor's race in 2006. Currently, it's hard to see how he can get anywhere near that number.

* A ready-made consulting team: When Lieberman made the move to run as an independent, the political team that had just helped New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg win re-election simply crossed over state lines to aid the Connecticut Senator's re-election effort. That sort of ready-made team of advisers who had very recently been there and done that allowed Lieberman to very quickly gain the upper hand over Lamont in the general election, a position he never relinquished. (Lieberman went on to win the race 50 percent to 40 percent.) It's hard to imagine that Stuart Stevens and Russ Schriefer, Crist's media consultants, or Glen Bolger, his pollster, would stick with him if he decided to go independent. (Bolger resigned as Sen. Arlen Specter's pollster when the Pennsylvania incumbent switched from the Republican to the Democratic party in 2009.) Crist's switch would likely leave him without many of the people who have helped guide his political career to this point -- an absence made all the worse by the fact that his longtime top adviser, George Lemieux, is otherwise occupied as a U.S. Senator through the end of the year.

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 21, 2010; 11:44 AM ET
 | Tags: Charlie Crist, Florida Senate race, Joe Lieberman, Kendrick Meek, Marco Rubio, Ned Lamont Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Democrats maintain solid cash edge heading into 2010 midterms


"I'll agree, Crist is a weasel."

But that does not differentiate him from Lieberman.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 21, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

In the spirit of bipartisanship,
I'll agree, Crist is a weasel.

Posted by: shrink2 | April 21, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Easy, Crist is a weasel, Leibermann is a patriot.

Posted by: Comrade_Zero | April 21, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Ok, I've seen enough,
I'll make the call.

Crist will stay in the Senate race
as as Independent.

Posted by: shrink2 | April 21, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Go Independent. If Rubio starts to stink of corruption and mismanagement charges, Crist wins. If not, Crist has a chance as people pull back from the extreme right.

Posted by: thebobbob | April 21, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

This seems to be blog by a conservative who thinks Rubio is crooked:


"Rubio created a Political Action Committee to help potential political candidates, but funneled most of the funds to himself, spending nearly $150,000 on administrative and operating costs. Over an 18 month period, Rubio spent only $4,000 promoting the intended cause of the P.A.C., helping political candidates, while similar political committees gave tens of thousands of dollars to political candidates. Rubio funneled the biggest chunk of the committee's money, $89,000, to his paid political consultants and his political cronies, $14,000. in reimbursements to himself, and more than $51,000. in credit card expenses.

Rubio's committee collected $228,000. in donations, including $30,000. from the Florida Crystals sugar corporation, $10,000. from U.S. Sugar, and $50,000. from a political group run by Republican fundraiser Alan Mendelsohn, a Broward County eye doctor indicted last year on corruption charges.

Rubio's wife, former Miami Dolphins cheerleader Jeanette Dousdebes, served as the committee's treasurer. In reports filed with the state, Rubio and his wife failed to disclose more than $34,000 in expenses over an 18-month period. "

Posted by: drindl | April 21, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

NO BAD THING for anybody to leave, or better yet, be thrown out of a party taken over by thugs, liars and thieves.

Charlie Crist is the undefeated World SB6 Veto Champion and does not need a yard sign on the road or an ad between drug commercials
to convince anybody to vote for him.

Reps, Teasters and other misfits: Spend that Zambia cash like it was yours.

Posted by: Scatterthevultures | April 21, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I think that one of the things that really worked for Lieberman was the tininess of his state. In CT you're popularity in one place can carry weight throughout the state. Florida is so big, so populous, so varied -- you can be king of Miami and they hardly know you in Sarasota.

Crist has got 4 months for Rubio to start to smell , and it can happen if he plays the waiting game. Especially if Jim Greer, squeezed out as head of the the Florida Republican Party because he was a friend of Crist's, is feeding tasty platters of inside information to the press and investigators.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 21, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Kinda glad Lieberman has some visibility -- makes it opportune to point out that without Lieberman's help, ENRON would never have happened...
Leah Fastow....(Andy's wife, Andy of the complex off books stuff that all the players like Goldman use today because accountants still can't grasp it, THE Leah that some say was really the the designing genius behind the ENRON stuff)....got into trouble 'way before ENRON for creating fraudulent tax shelters for corporations and guess who bailed her out?
Yep, Joe rode and wrote to the rescue and next thing you know, Leah's free to design/strike again -- BTW Leah's maiden name is Weingarten and that family is considered to be big cheese in the Houston real estate game.
So, would this be a reason why or why not Crist is different from Lieberman????

Posted by: bgreen2224 | April 21, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

'Losing on principle made Lieberman"

I'm sorry, one may not use a sentence that contains the words 'principle' and Lieberman -- it is logically inconsistent.

Lieberman won because he had the support of Rush Limbaugh and neocons -- and the republicans threw their own candidate under the bus [less than 5% support] and went for him en masse.

Posted by: drindl | April 21, 2010 12:04 PM
Actually Lieberman is pretty consistent.

You leftist hacks don't like him though because he isn't a toady to the entire agenda.

Posted by: Cryos | April 21, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

The problem is Obama continues to do things which poison the political atmosphere. These false charges of racism are just the latest in the long string of inflamatory rhetoric from Obama and his people.

This is not Obama's mandate - this is not what he was elected to do.

Not only are the false charges VILE, they represent the CLEAR FRAUD in Obama's 2008 campaign.


Goldmans Sachs misrepresented the securities to take money - Obama misrepresented himself to gain power.



It is the SAME FRAUD -



Posted by: 37thand0street | April 21, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

"Would Rubio have run if Crist was the imcumbent [sic]?"

Former MN Gov / Senator Wendell Anderson tried that trick. It did not turn out well for him when he subsequently stood for election.

Had Crist done the same, Rubio would call a RINO hunt & have similar success. The campaign ads write themselves.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 21, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

My goodness, this is an about face:

"Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee who's been in financial reform talks with chairman Chris Dodd, tells TPMDC that an agreement is close at hand.

"We're very close to a deal and there will be a substantial number of Republicans that go along with it," Shelby said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he expects to bring the bill to the Senate floor at the end of this week or early next week.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), another financial reform negotiator who had dinner last night with Shelby, said today he expects all 100 senators to vote to begin debate on the bill. Corker guessed the final bill would be able to pass with 70 or 80 votes. "

Posted by: drindl | April 21, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

We all see how that is working out for Spector.

Now no one wants him.

Posted by: Comrade_Zero | April 21, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

parkerfl1 writes
"Crist might just stay in the GOP race if it looks like Rubio is irreparably damaged by this credit card scandal. He could be damaged goods by the time the primary rolls around."

Problem is Crist has to make a decision by April 30 - next Friday.

So I'm suspecting that the charlie-s observation that

"The word 'Republican' has been removed from the following website as of yesterday: http://charliecrist.com/"

is a pretty good indicator of which way Crist is going.

If the Feds come up with some indictments before next week, perhaps Crist stays with the GOP. Or perhaps that further bolsters his argument that "I didn't leave the party, the party left me" (as imagined by the Fix).

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 21, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse


'Sen. John Ensign's re-election campaign took in just $50 in contributions, from one contributor, during the first quarter of 2010, according to FEC reports. The paltry take comes as more bad news for the scandal-tarred Nevada Republican, who would run for re-election in 2012.

Disclosure reports examined by TPMmuckraker show that Robert Donald, a Las Vegas retiree, was the sole contributor to the "Ensign for Senate" committee between January and March. Donald gave two separate $25 contributions.'

Posted by: drindl | April 21, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

The health care crew should take a long look at the 10th Amendment.

I am sick of these people who act as if the 10th Amendment does not exist.

The 10th Amendment is there - it is part of the Constitution. The 10th Amendment actually AMENDS the "interstate commerce" clause - SO ANY DOUBT SHOULD BE SETTLED IN FAVOR OF THE 10TH AMENDMENT.

Anyway, the lawsuits will go forward.

The Lopez v. United States decision is going to be extremely important.


Thank you very much for supporting the repeal of all of Obama's taxes.


Posted by: 37thand0street | April 21, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Charlie Crist a switch-hitter? Say it ain't so!



• Attention Team 'Project Geneva' -- This one's for you. See latest comments:

http://nowpublic.com/world/vic-livingston-now-facebook-will-reader-comments-be-censored OR
http://NowPublic.com/scrivener re: Lead story, "U.S. Silently..." and "Gestapo USA..."

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 21, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Crist could have appointed himself to this position and been a Senator already -

Would Rubio have run if Crist was the imcumbent ?

Posted by: 37thand0street | April 21, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

The FALSE CHARGES OF RACISM have to be addressed - and they have to be discussed until they stick to OBAMA.

OBAMA can not think that everytime he gets himself into political trouble, he is going to have his attack machine go out and start crying racist.

This is a severe defect that Obama has - not all black people - just Obama.


Any qualified person would not engage in this kind of behavior.

This is the EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT OBAMA PROMISED IN HIS CAMPAIGN - don't forget Obama is operating WAY OUTSIDE his mandate on this one.

And someone please tell Eugene Robinson too -

Eugene Robinson needs to start reading Martin Luther King.

This country did NOT elect Obama to start directing his attack machine to start leveling charges of racism all over the place.

Colbert King and Eugene Robinson - did they ever LISTEN to what Obama saying in 2008 - or did they just look at the color of his FACE ???


Posted by: 37thand0street | April 21, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

"The word 'Republican' has been removed from the following website as of yesterday: http://charliecrist.com/

So you decide whether he is switching parties or not.

Posted by: charlie-s "

Thank you, Charlie, that's a tell-tale tell wouldn't you say?

Guess he's tired of the way he was kicked to the curb by his party and now is going to fight back. Go Charlie!

Posted by: drindl | April 21, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Crist should stay a Republican and wait for another race.

Forget about this one.

Crist has no where to go - it is correct that this three-way race is different from Lieberman's three-way race.

Also Lieberman was running for re-election.

The additional problem for Crist is IF he wins as an Independent, he is still out there - not really knowing where he belongs.

There is going to be the constant question of whether Crist might vote with the democrats - which is going to be aggravated by reminders that the national Republicans did not support his election, and thus do not deserve any loyalty.

It's just going to go to on and on - and never stop.


Posted by: 37thand0street | April 21, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I live in Tallahassee and the word on the street is that he is in a bit of a bind. The IRS and FBI are looking a Rubio's Republican party-issued credit card activity. However, the Republican controlled legislature yesterday refused to confirm Crist's appointments to the public service commission and earlier failed to confirm his appointment to the state health agency (ACHA). No love is lost between the legislature and Crist, particularly since he vetoed the education bill which would have stripped tenure from high school teachers. The general consensus is that he will ultimately switch.

Posted by: charlie-s | April 21, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

As a former CT resident and previous registered Independent, I switched to the Democratic party as a result of Lieberman's deception. While the biggest reason for him being elected was the crossover from Republicans, Lieberman's marketing of himself as an "Independent Democrat" was very effective spin. I can tell you that many people took this to mean that he was still a Democrat and not an Independent. Just goes to show you how ill informed people really are and how effective doublespeak really is. I investigated the potential for a recall but the CT General Statutes eliminated this option decades ago...how unfortunate particularly given his duplicity, poor performance and clear disregard for the people that he represents.

Posted by: MarkLeBel | April 21, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Lieberman's ability to stand on his principles is roughly in line with a stool's ability to stand on one leg.

Lieberman was beaten in the primary. He became an Independent AFTER he was beaten in the primary.

Not much principle there. But that's what we expect from Judas Joe.

There aren't enough Republicans in Connecticut to save him in 2012.

Posted by: WhatHeSaid | April 21, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse


Crist is no longer a Republican,
apparently. But will he switch,
or go Independent?

Posted by: shrink2 | April 21, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Crist is no Lieberman. I also agree that Rubio & Meek do have a real base on which to run and that base would not leave them for Crist. However, many Democrats and many Republicans would still vote for Crist if he ran as an independent. It sort of looks more and more like Crist's best shot at winning in November is to either stay in the Republican nomination contest and hope that something more is found on Rubio in this credit card search or to drop the senate race and run as an independent for Governor. If he did that, he's already governor and can swap favors for cash now. That would keep his fundraising ability going to be able to compete against Sink & McCollum. If Crist runs as an independent for Senate, he must be able to siphon significant votes from democrats as he's likely to get around 35% or so of Republican votes. He then would need 40% of Democrats and maybe 60% of independents...a very staunch hill to climb, especially if his fundraising evaporates. A reelection run for Crist may be his best option. To top it off, Crist could endorse Rubio for Senate and hope the NRGA & Hayley Barbour don't sell him out and really support McCollum. This year, in a partisan atmosphere, Crist should likely run for reelection as Governor as an independent and then try a 2012 Senate run against Nelson. This could be his best path to entend his political career.

Posted by: reason5 | April 21, 2010 12:27 PM | Report abuse

The word 'Republican' has been removed from the following website as of yesterday: http://charliecrist.com/

So you decide whether he is switching parties or not.

Posted by: charlie-s | April 21, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Crist might just stay in the GOP race if it looks like Rubio is irreparably damaged by this credit card scandal. He could be damaged goods by the time the primary rolls around.


Posted by: parkerfl1 | April 21, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

'Losing on principle made Lieberman"

I'm sorry, one may not use a sentence that contains the words 'principle' and Lieberman -- it is logically inconsistent.

Lieberman won because he had the support of Rush Limbaugh and neocons -- and the republicans threw their own candidate under the bus [less than 5% support] and went for him en masse.

Posted by: drindl | April 21, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

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