Of Candidates and Voters
The election season is rapidly approaching for Florida voters and already the focus seems to be straying from the August 24, Primary and moving towards the November 2, General Election. Moreover, unless you do not have a television, computer or some handheld device where you get your news, you have read where Gov. Charlie Crist is now trailing former House GOP Speaker Marco Rubio for Florida's coveted US Senate seat that was vacated by Mel Martinez.
Many political professionals and pundits of all stripes have weighed in with opinions of why Gov. Crist is quickly becoming a non-entity or that he is so focused on the next higher office that he cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, from my view I see Gov. Crist no different from when he won the September 5, 2006 primary for Governor. During that campaign, Crist defeated the statewide-established candidate Tom Gallagher and then defeated Tampa Congressman Jim Davis on November 7, 2006.
Based on the issues that Gov. Crist has pushed for and accomplished - restoration of felon rights, gambling compact, paper trail for electronic voting - since his January 2007 swearing-in, it is hard to say that we did not know where he stood on the issues. However, where most have been caught off guard is the fact that those accomplishments and his agenda - climate change, public corruption, spending for environmental conservation - are more in line with general election voters rather than the more ardent conservative Republican primary voters.
To emphasize this point look at his current actions during the Legislative Session in Tallahassee. He vetoed a GOP sponsored election reform bill, which would have allowed legislative leadership to maintain their own political action committees and he vetoed S.B. 6, which would have made sweeping changes to how teachers are hired, evaluated and retained. Lastly, the foreshadowing of possible vetoes related to rate deregulation of property insurance and budget vetoes surely are noted.
All the while, Gov. Crist's primary opponent, Marco Rubio had an eye-opening fundraising quarter of $3.6 million and collected key endorsements from national GOP leaders. What that all equals is the notion that as the GOP establishment tries to close ranks the more it appears to make Gov. Crist look as an outsider.
An outsider? One may ask how.
Gov. Crist's reasoning for vetoing SB 6 and now his interest in running as No Party Affiliation both brought one common comment, "I'm listening to the people.” Those are four keywords, and the most important - people. Since the day that Gov. Crist was elected to the state Senate in 1992 by defeating Democrat incumbent Helen Gordon Davis, he has always been looking out for the people. While it may be a common advertising slogan for attorney John Morgan, it has been a mainstay for Gov. Crist. Again, he is not addressing primary voters but general election voters.
What this all boils down to, when you consider the issues and agenda that he has pushed during his elected career as a state Senator, Education Commissioner, Attorney General and now as Governor, his ability to go along and get along with Democrats and now taking his own party to the woodshed on popular issues, he's making himself out to be the outsider and who are the voters angry today?
It’s not partisan, but its directed at incumbents and the more he can frame himself as the solution and blame the insiders in Tallahassee and Washington as the problem, then you have a competitive 2010 General Election where a NPA can win, especially if your name is Charlie Crist.