Charlie Crist

Up The Establishment

Conservative Tea Partyby Lance Thompson

The media has focused on the growing rift between new conservative stars and their Tea Party backers versus the old guard establishment Republicans.  This difference has been highlighted in races in Florida (Marco Rubio over Charlie Crist), Alaska (Joe Miller over Lisa Murkowski), and most recently Delaware (Christine O’Donnell over Mike Castle).  In each case, a conservative outsider has overcome long odds to beat an experienced but more moderate candidate backed by the Republican establishment.  This trend shows every indication of continuing.
 
Christine O’Donnell, now the Republican candidate for Delaware’s open Senate seat, will face Democrat Chris Coons in November.  Polls show O’Donnell trailing in double digits.  This is a familiar situation to conservative candidates this year.  Marco Rubio trailed governor Charlie Crist by double digits in the Florida primary before winning the Republican Senate nomination.  Crist then declared himself an independent (refusing to return the millions in Republican campaign funding he had already received), and again took a double digit lead.  This race has reversed to Rubio’s advantage.  Joe Miller in Alaska was also behind in the polls before his win over Lisa Murkowski.
 
In all of these cases, old guard Republican strategists and pundits warned voters that the conservative Tea Party candidates were too extreme, and would not have the appeal to win.  Let’s examine both arguments individually.
 
First, in an era of rampant and unchecked socialism rammed through by an ultra-liberal President and Congress, there is no other possible cure than a conservative resurgence.  We didn’t get socialized medicine, skyrocketing debt, and a crippled economy by half measures and bipartisanship.  We arrived here thanks to a Democratic steamroller that paved the way for every item that’s appeared on the liberal wish list for the last two generations.  The only way to reverse this trend is to put strong, principled, undiluted conservatives in office and in power.  Moderates will not do.
 
Second, the fact that Tea Party candidates are prevailing all over the country, in states previously thought too blue to bother, demonstrates that the enthusiasm, power, and momentum this election year is with conservative candidates who connect with the people.  The pundits who now tell us that these candidates, once nominated, can’t win the general election are the same ones who told us earlier that these candidates would not win in their primaries. 
 
Have we not nominated moderate conservatives before?  Wasn’t John McCain known for reaching across the aisle?  Wasn’t he always tougher on conservative Republicans than he ever was on Democrats?  His even-handedness and bipartisan reputation was supposed to guarantee support from independent voters and the press.  Instead, his inept campaign was so ineffective that an opponent with no executive experience, less than one full term in the Senate, and no discernible aptitude for world leadership beat him handily in 2008.
 
And even when the Republicans place moderate, established, electable candidates on the ballot, and they do actually win, they are notable undependable when needed most.  Moderate Arlen Specter enjoyed the support of the GOP and President Bush over conservative challenger Pat Toomey for the 2004 Pennsylvania Senate primary.  Specter prevailed and paid back the GOP with liberal votes on the judiciary committee and by switching parties prior to his 2010 re-election bid.  He failed to win the Democrat nomination, and is now thankfully out of politics.  Moderate electable candidates do not serve conservative causes or interests.
 
If we believe in conservative principles, we must nominate and elect conservative candidates.  This year, more than ever, watered-down, moderate, half measures are not enough.
 
The American people are restive.  They are preparing to throw out a record number of Democrats from Congress and state governments across the country.  If the Republicans who replace them don’t put our nation back on the right course, they will be thrown out as well.  We won’t get a second chance to get it right.
 
Christine O’Donnell is a principled conservative.  She deserves our support.  The establishment may fight her tooth and nail.  But Christine O’Donnell has already defeated them.  They just don’t know it yet.  Burt Lancaster said it best in the film “Sweet Smell of Success,” when his character, powerful columnist J. J. Hunsecker, tells struggling publicity agent Sydney Falco that Falco’s influence is over.  “You’re dead, kid.  Go get yourself buried.”

 

FL Senate: Charlie's Comeback (and how he could be stopped)

If there is only one person in the world for whom the oil spill disaster in the Gulf is a blessing in disguise, that man is Charlie Crist.

From photos of the Governor surveying the spill to soundbites of him demanding full compensation for Florida's spill related damages, Crist's handling of the spill has offered him the chance to look like a leader, above politics, fighting for Florida. But his favorables, according to Quinnipiac's June 9th survey, haven't changed dramatically from the more difficult days of early 2010 and late 2009. His current job approval, at 57%, is lower than it was in October 2009 when Rubio's insurgency was underway. His favorables today are lower than the October poll as well, currently at 52%.

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio has struggled to pivot out of primary mode and into a general. The shift from running as "the true conservative" to a general election candidate will not be an easy one, and it becomes more and more critical with each tough poll that the Rubio campaign make that transition and begin to build his case to an audience beyond Tea Parties and local GOP groups.

There are a number of things going in Crist's favor - but don't count Rubio out. Five months is an eternity in politics. Looking at the recent polls and exit polling data going back to 1994, there are a variety of factors that will keep this race interesting through November.

1)Florida's unemployment rate is the fifth highest in the nation at 11.7%. There's an anecdote my colleagues and I have been using recently to describe the current political environment. Imagine a run-down house on that is on fire. Sure, the windows need repair, the house could use a coat of pain, the lawn needs to be cut. But until you put out the fire, the rest of that is irrelevant. The fire in politics today is the unemployment rate; until jobs come back to Florida, everything else is a distraction. When you can't drive down a suburban street without seeing foreclosure signs, voters have bigger issues they are voting on than whether or not former party chair Jim Greer had an illegal consulting arrangement with the Florida GOP. The temptation will be high for candidates to get into discussions about party credit card statements and backroom deals but things in Florida are very serious, and voters will respond to the candidates that take the economic crisis seriously.

2) Around one out of four voters in 2010 in Florida is likely to be independent. In the 2006 election, 24% of voters in the Governor's race were independent - a number that jumped to 29% in the Presidential race in 2008, in congruence with the nationwide trend of a small bump in independents. Capturing these voters is key. Currently, Crist is winning 51% of independent voters according to the June 9 Quinnipiac poll. This is not particularly surprising - both Meek and Rubio have been fighting for their partisan supporters - but if Crist continues to sustain a majority of the independent vote, he will be incredibly formidable heading into November.

3) As a result, Rubio must improve his brand with independents. Republicans know Marco Rubio. They love Marco Rubio. Only a quarter haven't formed an opinion about him, and only 11% don't like him. When it comes to locking down his side, he's good. His bigger problem comes from independents, where is fav/unfav is roughly even at 31-30. He absolutely needs to have favorables that are over 50% among independents in order to be competitive with Crist.

4) Kendrick Meek still doesn't have a statewide brand, and if he develops one, he will slightly erode Crist's share of the vote. Crist currently pulls in a whopping 37% of Democratic voters. I believe this has a lot to do with the fact that 69% of voters, including 59% of Democrats, that say they haven't heard enough about Meek to form an opinion. As the election proceeds and all candidates hit the airwaves one can expect Crist's advantage to erode. These days, a candidate can build a brand almost overnight - consider that Rick Scott came out of nowhere and now boasts 53% of Florida voters who have an opinion about him. Meek may not be armed with the same kind of war chest, but by election day it is highly unlikely that Meek will still be an unknown to 7 out of 10 voters.

5) Painting Crist as an opportunist is not enough - people think everyone does what's popular. The conventional wisdom is that if Rubio pulls down Crist's favorables and brands Crist as a political opportunist, he can gain ground. The Quinnipiac poll showed that almost half of Florida voters (48%) think Crist makes decisions based on "what's popular" - a charge they also believe about Marco Rubio (42%). When the question is asked generally about "most public officials", 74% say they usually do what is popular. Fighting the battle over whether or not Crist is "principled" isn't fighting a battle on which Rubio has some major advantage in the general electorate. Furthermore, it's not as if Florida voters didn't see associate Crist's defection from the GOP with ulterior motives - 60% said he left the Republican party because he couldn't win the primary, including 57% of independents. Voters aren't naïve on this point. If Rubio spends five months beating up on Crist as an opportunist and neglecting to build his own favorables among independents, it's not likely to be as productive as he'd like.

Most folks I talk to say that in order for Rubio to have a fighting chance against Crist, he needs to bring down Crist's favorables. Of course, that strategy might yield a slight bump in standing, but I don't believe it is nearly enough to win. Voters already assume politicians do what they need to do to get elected. They already assume Crist has made politically motivated moves in this race. And they vote for him anyways. The problem isn't Crist's favorables, the problem is Rubio's neutral brand image among independents. And the way for Rubio, Crist, or Meek (or any candidate in any race, for that matter) to build that brand is to become the leader on the issue of the economy and jobs.

Crist may be getting a break in the press with his handling of the oil spill. But the ultimate impact of the oil spill is more than environmental, it is economic. If tourism dollars start leaving the state and the economic situation grows more dire, the primacy of the economy in this and all races will become even greater. In January 2007 when Crist was sworn into office, Florida's unemployment rate was 3.5%. Besides March 2007, every month that Charlie Crist has been Governor, Florida's unemployment rate has gotten worse. Even the national unemployment rate doesn't have a trend as dramatically consistent as that, and even though the national rate has levelled off, Florida's keeps getting worse. If Rubio wants to take Crist head on, he should - but with economic policy contrasts that demonstrate both how Crist failed to ameliorate the jobs situation and with how Rubio would propose to fix the problem. Rubio rose to fame as the "ideas" man in Tallahassee, and it is that same focus on "ideas" that can be his ticket to Washington in November.

(This item is cross-posted at Pollster.com)

More John McCain? Remember McCain-Feingold… Shamnesty.

Does anyone out there seriously think we need six more years of John McCain’s RINO deal-making with the very people who are trying to steal our freedoms? McCain, coming off of his failed Presidential bid, has garnered the support of some fellow RINOs in the party such as Florida Governor Charlie Crist, in payment of political favors received, and Sarah Palin, I imagine for much the same reason.

I wish she’d reconsider. I’m beginning to think that she may need to go back and re-tool her political science and history credentials, given her glaring inability to field Bill O’Reilly’s questions on their recent interview. Don’t get me wrong, I like Sarah Palin and see her as a potential superstar in the Conservative political movement. But if she can’t get past O’Reilly, who after all was simply reiterating criticisms and questions that had already been posited, she’d have one hell of a time on the national political stage and in particular a 2012 presidential bid.


John McCain - CBS 'Face The Nation' Jan24, 2010

Her support for McCain may prove a liability in the eyes of Conservatives, and not a few Independents, who view John McCain as being far too liberal on critical issues facing this country. There are far too many people like myself who remember one of McCain’s more enduring political liabilities, the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act, thankfully largely overturned by a recent Supreme Court decision. All leftist media bleating and ’soft money’ blather aside, this bill was nothing more than a direct assault on the FIRST AMENDMENT of our Constitution.

ANY act that bridles or abridges the right of free speech, whether for an individual, a group of individuals, a club, company, corporation or union, is a direct violation of the First Amendment of our Constitution. That McCain was willing to sell the Constitution he SWORE to defend down the river for short term political gain says worlds about him.

Another McCain super liability, one which arguably may have tipped the balance in costing him the support of Conservatives and Independents, was his support for the McCain-Kennedy Comprehensive Amnesty Bill. McCain was always at the forefront of those who stated that ‘WE HAD TO’ have illegal aliens in this country to do the work that AMERICANS wouldn’t do. Voters remembered an ill-conceived statement in front of a blue-collar audience that Americans couldn’t work in the lettuce fields. He foolishly challenged, “You can’t do it my friend”.

The entire illegal alien question is the silent ‘third rail’ of American politics. The left wants illegals for a super welfare-class of guaranteed Democrat voters. Conversely, business sees them as a continuing source of low cost labor. AMERICAN CITIZENS, including most HISPANICS, see them as a drag on the economy, on social services, on the criminal justice system, on education and on the sovereignty of the nation. That’s what McCain is remembered for.

Then there was the ‘GANG OF FOURTEEN’ in which McCain supported the Democrats in sustaining judicial filibusters. Thumbing his nose and then sticking it in the eye of Conservatives to boot. His oft-touted ‘maverick’ status which brought him the attention and plaudits of the liberal press did little to endear him to us. With a record like this one wonders why the citizens of Arizona continued to return him to the Senate term after term?

There is the propensity of all voters to return incumbents to office however illogical that may seem. In John McCain’s case there is his status as a genuine VietNam war hero. His jet fighter was shot down over North VietNam, he was captured and was severely brutalized and tortured while a POW. No one, least of all me, a Marine Veteran, would dishonor that. His politics however are a different matter.


J.D. Hayworth

McCain may be challenged by a solid conservative, former Representative J.D. Hayworth, who has not actually declared at this time. McCain’s people are in a positive sweat at this and are pulling out all the stops to try and discredit Hayworth. This alone would have a tendency to make me want to support him. With a rock-solid Conservative philosophy on all of the issues that are dear to Americans and Arizonians, Hayworth stands a good chance of defeating McCain. As a Conservative, if Hayworth declares I’m going to throw my support behind him. I urge you all to investigate his record and background as I have and support him as well.

Semper Vigilans, Semper Fidelis

© Skip MacLure 2010

 

2010 Predictions

Since we are about to come to the end of the year (and decade), I think it is worthwhile to put some predictions down before anything happens in 2010.  I hope to hear some of yours in the comments:

1. 2010 will be a wave election, reminiscent of 1994.  At this moment, Rothenberg Political Report estimates that Republicans will pick up 15-20 seats in the House, and an unspecified small gain in the Senate.  Charlie Cook predicts solid pickups for the GOP, but somewhat less than taking back the House.  I'm inclined to think that the turnover will be on the higher side.  The popular outrage over the unpopular health care plan and the seeming disregard for public opinion will create the conditions for a conservative populist uprising.  One thing to remember about 1994 was that it was the election that finished the realignment in the South, something that is no longer much of a concern (beyond a few stray Blue Dogs).  For similar gains (54 seats), Republicans will have to win seats in areas like the Rocky Mountains, the Midwest, and Suburban Northeast.  Republicans need 40 seats to win back the House.  I think the odds of that are 50-50.

2.  The epicenter of the wave will be Arkansas.  There is no state in America that John McCain ran so well compared to George W. Bush's 2004 performance.  Arkansas was 3 percent more Republican than the nation in 2004; it was 13 points more Republican than the nation in 2008.  Arkansas was always a traditional hard scrabble Jacksonian Democrat state, economically populist and socially traditional.  Unlike most Southern states, there is still a conservative Democrat presence on the state and local level.  Currently both Senators and 3 of 4 Representatives are Democrats, putting them in a precarious position in a state shifting sharply to the right.  It's three Democrats hold seats that are R+5, R+7, and R+8.  Blanche Lincoln is trailing essentially annonymous state legislators across the board.  I think any serious Republican challenger could beat any Democrat in Arkansas next year.  Arkansas in 2010 will be like Texas in 1994 and Georgia in 2002, the year in which the realignment on the local level is completed.

3.  There could be another party defection or two.  Parker Griffith's switch today is a rare thing, but a toxic political environment for Blue Dog Democrats could tempt some to switch parties.  Would you really be shocked if Bobby Bright (D-AL) or another Southern Democrat flip to save their seats?  There were a series of party switches after 1994, though the South is more solidly Republican now than back then.

4.  Moderate suburban counties will swing back to Republicans.  In 2009 elections, we saw a definite swing towards the GOP in crucial suburban counties.  Bob McDonnell won the heavily populated Fairfax County in Virginia, while Chris Christie won Middlesex and Burlington Counties.  Less noticed were statewide judicial elections in Pennsylvania and county elections in New York State, where Republicans won competitive elections in suburban Philadelphia and New York City.  All of these were counties that the Republican Party was supposed to be incapable of winning, possibly forever.  That narrative didn't even last a year.  I think we will see some surprising successes in places Republicans may have written off in past years.

5.  The Democratic agenda will be practically paralyzed after the health care fiasco.  The health care "reform" process has taken over a half of a year.  Anyone remember when Obama set a deadline of the end of July for a health care deal?  I think no one in the White House realized how difficult and drawn out this process would be.  Now, Obama's first year has passed and he only got around to addressing two items on his agenda.  He hasn't addressed the major problem of unemployment (the stimulus didn't do that effectively).  My guess for what Obama will do is to focus more on fixing the economy (as he should) and I think he will go after the immigration issue.  The White House will do this because it has divided the Republican Party in the past and it needs something to stop the Republican momentum.  Its not a bad gambit, but I think immigration will be different than 2006-2007 because Republicans are no longer in power and have no obligation to a president with a different agenda.  It could actually be divisive towards the Democratic Party.  Immigration cuts along elite/populist lines more than left/right.  I think Dems may be miscalculating if this is the case.

6.  Marco Rubio wins the Florida Senate primary and the general election.  As of right now, the Rubio-Crist primary is about tied, which is a massive upset considering Crist's high name ID.  Look for this race to open up wide in Rubio's favor early in the year, prompting Crist to make one of two choices: drop out and try to re-enter the Governor's race or change parties and win the Democratic primary easily over the hapless Kendrick Meek.  I'm not familiar with Florida election law, so I don't know when primary races have to be finalized.  While Crist is less to the left than Arlen Specter was, he evidences little principle, and a party switch into an easy primary victory wouldn't surprise me.  But I think in either case Rubio wins and becomes the face of the November 2010 victories.

Charlie Crist Could Learn a Lesson From Van Jones

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist may find a lesson in the Van Jones story. Be careful who you appoint, when they mess up it may come back on you.

Republicans in Florida have been furious with the Governor since he embraced President Obama on stage in March. But Crist didn’t stop there. He rallied behind Obama in support of the stimulus package and raised taxes.

If Crist’s recent appointee, Sen. George LeMueix does poorly in the Senate, that could spell trouble for Crist, who opted out of a second term as governor to pursue the Senate seat himself.

Crist pulled Republican’s from all across the state to interview for the Senate seat. Its been reported that Crist kept multiple lists of possible appointees. One list of legislators --and another list of everybody else.

Here's a snapshot of “everybody else” on the same list as LeMueix --

Jim Greer, Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida; close Crist advisor.

Greg Truax, businessman and close advisor to Crist.

Nancy Watkins, businesswoman and fundraiser.

Al Austin, businessman, fundraiser and CEO Austin Companies.

Michael Pinson, fundraiser and CEO of Pinson Communications.

Al Hoffman, fundraiser and CEO of WCI Industries.

Yes, all lapdogs. Every single one.

 

 

Will "Middle American Radicals" back "Certified Pre-owned candidates" in 2010?

There's a must read over @ the New Ledger which I think makes a point missed by the Beltway brain trust.

Yet the assumption that these protesters are right-wingers — or as others have accused, fake grassroot anger, or “astroturf” — seems a vast oversimplification. While we hardly have data on the people who have been attending these townhalls and shouting down members attempting to sell health care insurance reform, anecdotal evidence indicates that this is hardly manufactured dissent. Obama’s plan is hardly popular, and many Americans who are not Republican or conservative are opposed to the package and nervous about its outcome.

Domenech makes the point that this appears much more to be a sudden resurgence of the Ross Perot phenomena than any Republican party inspired movement. I tend to agree. Recent polls show that Republican party identification is still rather low; it's been deterioration in Democratic support over recent months that's kept the gap from widening. To the extent any national figures have stoked the flames, they are media hosts like Limbaugh, Hannity , Beck and Levin and not Republican elected officials.  And the "feel" of the crowds doesn't reflect the losing late decade Republican coalition of preachers and lobbyists.

These protesters aren’t really fans of either party (George W. Bush is no more popular at Tea Parties than Barack Obama), but driven by a strong sense — and basic American ideas of liberty — that the government shouldn’t be intruding on their lives, taking their money and giving it to companies that don’t deserve it, telling them which doctor to go to, and generally mismanaging things.

Indeed, the only contemporary Republican political figure who seems to be aligned with this inchoate anti-establishment vibe is Sarah Palin, who as we are well aware marches to her own drummer.  While Palin is often pigeonholed by the MSM as a 'social conservative champion", much of the energy she brought to the McCain campaign during its brief burst of success was appealing to these sorts of voters who had tuned out the Republican establishment.

These voters are "middle American radicals"--distrustful of big government but usually skeptical of movement conservatism or corporate Republicanism.  I suspect that one will find a rather substantial number sat out the 2008 election, and clearly they decided to abstain from the 2006 midterms in droves, costing us both houses of Congress. 

So here's the challenge:

if those on the right aren’t able to present a strong, coherent alternative, they will be unable to rally these Perotistas to their side. In 1994, the Republicans were successful at this, combining a package of populist governmental reforms with outrage against irresponsible governance to attain victory — but more recently, they’ve given no signs of having this capability. Whether they can recapture it, and claim enough of the independent middle to win, will be a very challenging thing indeed.

And what are Republicans doing to harness this energy for the 2010 elections?  Nominating a bunch of "certified pre-owned candidates"

The latest example is from Colorado, where it appears failed 2006 gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez is about to challenge appointed Democratic senator Bennet. 

Beauprez appears to be a perfectly satisfactory guy; he won a swing House district twice and seems to have done a credible job in Congress.  But how much pizazz are we getting running a guy whose been around awhile and lost his last statewide race by double digitsMaybe the alternatives haven't shown to be able to get it done, but I'd like to think we'd do better than a "round up the usual suspects" approach to nominating candidates in this unconventional election cycle  

Same for Roy Blunt or Charlie Crist. Are we giving ourselves our best shot in 2010 by running old time corporate Republicans? And let's assume they do win. Are these the sorts of people that are going to inspire a new generation to become active Republicans?

Lemme throw a race where we should be thinking outside the box. Nevada. Harry Reid has anemic approval numbers but all the prominent Republican officeholders of late have legal problems or think they'll wait for John Ensign to step aside in 2012.

Fine. Why don't we look to a nonpolitician to run against Reid. Make this the classic outsider vs. the classic insider.

Half of Nevada's voters weren't around when Reid got into the Senate. Nevada is a state built on gambling, this seems like a good bet to me.

Or will we find the last political warhorse who lost a statewide race or hold some obscure legislative post and hand the keys off to him?

Stop looking for old jalopies. The Republican party is not going to thrive in the future running its own version of "cash for clunkers". Time for the bright new models!  

   

Don't Bet on Crist Over Rubio

At about this time every three months, we have to endure the typical quarterly fundraising roundups. This one from The Hill shows the problem with the genre, headlined "FEC reports show Crist the man to beat in Florida." This in response to Crist raising an eye-popping $4.3 million in the 2nd quarter, against Marco Rubio's $340,000.

Crist may be a slight favorite in the Republican primary, but money will have nothing to do with why.

I bang this drum pretty often, but ask presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney how far early, high dollar bundler support got them. Or Virginia Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe on how much a 10-to-1 cash advantage is worth.

Underfunded candidates like Rubio don't need more money now. The need an argument. A bulletproof argument from a plausible candidate is worth tens of millions of dollars in any primary, overwhelming a financial advantage of any magnitude. While frontrunners confuse high-dollar fundraising for actual grassroots support, a conclusion that headlines like The Hill's do nothing to discourage, smart underdogs would do right to focus on building an impregnable message advantage. Because that's the part that counts for 90% in any electoral victory.

John McCain's campaign was defunct and broke at this point in the race, without money to pay a pollster. Mike Huckabee had no money. Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani spent $60 million plus to win a single delegate, attending fundraisers when he should have been in New Hampshire. A leading Republican strategist recently told me that he wonders whether money doesn't wind up making our campaigns worse while the lack of money makes them better and more focused. Look at McCain with no money, vs. McCain with money (pre-implosion and general election).

Crist's fundraising aside, he's still a relatively popular governor with 100% name ID, and so still the "man to beat." But fundraising trophies don't make it so. Complacency is his biggest enemy.

Crist's campaign is the antithesis of Rebuildness. Of Crist's $4.3 million how much was online? How much came from donations of $100 or less? How many people have signed up on his e-mail list since he announced? How many of his supporters would crawl on glass to see him win?

In running a campaign, that latter kind of support is the kind I want, and I think Rubio has it.

And not only that, but he's a particularly strong and plausible kind of grassroots candidate. He's no Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul. Had Crist not stepped in, he'd be considered a top recruit and a rising star. Rubio would easily beat Kendrick Meek in a general election.

We have two uniquely talented people running for Senate in a seat we will probably hold in Florida. Instead of elbowing one aside, we should be grabbing the popcorn and watching this one go the distance.

The primary will be close. Among voters who know both, Crist and Rubio are tied. Crist's money will not buy him more name ID or goodwill; only his bully pulpit as Governor can do that, and he's surrendering it. Meanwhile, Rubio's talents as a candidate, his crossover potential, and his appeal to grassroots conservatives mean he has nowhere to go but up. I still think Crist narrowly wins absent a massive screwup, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Recent elections have not been kind to moneyed "frontrunners."

Rule 11: Why Steele has no say on Crist

There were a series of questions about whether the RNC would endorse Arlen Specter. Michael Steele has been asked about endorsing Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. And now people are getting their underwear in a knot about Charlie Crist.

I hate to be super pedantic, but the RNC does not make the endorsement decision. A state's delegation to the Republican National Committee control that process. And Sharon Day, RNC Secretary and Florida Republican National Committeewoman, has refused to support an RNC endorsement:

Sharon Day, of Fort Lauderdale, who holds the post of national Republican committeewoman from Florida, refused Greer's request to sign a letter authorizing the national Republican Party to help Crist in the primary.

Party rules say the party must stay neutral in primaries unless all three members of the national committee from a state sign a letter authorizing the party to take sides. Greer, also a national committee member, and Paul Senft of Bartow, Florida's national committeeman, have both signed the letter.

This is the so-called "Rule 11". 

Can we not play gotcha politics with Michael Steele and his endorsement of various candidates? The guy's hands are tied.

 

Roger Stone on FL Sen

When one considers that Stone is one of Crist's biggest boosters, this is pretty huge:

 

Florida Musical Chairs By Roger Stone Governor Charlie Crist's decision to run for an open seat in the U.S. Senate instead of seeking re-election as Governor has roiled the waters in Florida. Although Governor Crist is popular, voter reaction to a charge that he has "walked out on the job" before keeping his pledge to lower property taxes and cut insurance rates has not yet been determined. The Governor has not put forward much of a rationale for his candidacy; he most certainly cannot claim that there is nothing left to do in Tallahassee. Naked ambition is rarely an acceptable rationale for voters when politicians explain why they should be elected. Former House Speaker Marco Rubio has wisely announced his intention to challenge Crist in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. This is a no-lose proposition for Marco because losing with 45% would be a victory and winning with 51% would be a victory. Should Rubio bleed Crist badly, the young former Speaker will have lined himself up as the front runner for the Republican nomination for Bill Nelson's seat. If Rubio wins the primary in an upset, he will be even money against any Democrat. It is an article of faith among Florida Democrats that Alex Sink, the State elected CFO, will be the next Governor. I think they may be picking out their inaugural gowns a little too early. While Attorney General Bill McCollum has two statewide losses in his track record, he will easily wrap up the Republican nomination and will mount a better campaign than his previous efforts. Crist could be damaged by a "closer than expected" primary win. His broken promise to "make property taxes drop like a rock" and his failure to reduce insurance rates are even more powerful issues in the general election than they are in the primary. Crist can expect a level of scrutiny in the primary and general that is very unlike the way the media operated in 2006 when Crist was the darling of the conservatives running against former liberal Tom Gallagher. The media has soured on the "tanned one." Crist will also find fundraising more difficult. Between the federal limits and the restrictions on state officials raising federal dollars, it is unlikely that Crist will have the 3 to 1 spending advantage in a senate race that he had in his bid for governor. Congressman Kendrick Meek is an exceedingly weak general election candidate. Republicans in Washington are chortling about the opposition research that ties Meek and his mother, a former congresswoman, to corruption. Yet Meek maintains a strong base in the primary and could emerge handing an easier than expected victory to Crist. It is unlikely that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will let that happen and a top goal is the recruitment of a candidate in the moderate Lawton Chiles, Rueben, Askew, Bill Nelson mold. Particularly intriguing is the idea of a non-Cuban Hispanic candidate who could appeal to a growing Hispanic base within the Democratic Party. State Senator Dan Gelber, currently a candidate for the U.S. Senate, will probably switch to the open Attorney General's race if he is not named as U.S. Attorney for South Florida by President Obama. Crist could have walked to re-election as could Attorney General McCollum. Instead they both face difficult races and party leaders are petrified with the thought of losing the Governor's office after 12 years of Republican rule.

Rubio v. Crist - a fight for the direction of the GOP

Erick Erickson of Redstate.com has called for a boycott of the NRSC after that body endorsed Gov. Charlie Crist for Mel Martinez's seat over Marco Rubio.

Crist's popularity makes him as close to a sure thing as the Republican Party can find for an empty seat in the election - but Rubio is much more appealing to the base. Rubio's youth, Cuban ethnicity and Catholicism are also a breath of fresh air in a party whose national figures (McConnell, Boehner, McCain, Romney et. al.) are short on all three of those characteristics.

Rubio might do better do stay in Florida and run for Governor - a successful term in the Governor's office would make him 2016 Presidential timber. But he hasn't stepped aside, which would lead to a primary race that would be a microcosm of the broader fight between Republican moderates and right-wingers over the direction the Party should go in.

I like Rubio. His ethnic and religious background, as well as his outsider status, are both welcome breaths of fresh air in a party that hasn't really produced any new figures that are taken seriously outside the party's base. He'd also be a very competitive candidate in a battleground state, and if he won he'd be a valuable asset to the Republican candidate in 2016. Despite this, I think he should stand down in favor of Crist - he's as close to a sure thing as can be found for Republicans this election cycle. He'd free up money and other resources to help Republicans on shakier ground, like Mark Kirk in Illinois. And his already-high national profile would only be increased by a successful Senate campaign. Coming form what has been the quintessential battleground state in the last three elections, he would be a highly visible spokesman for the Republican platform in D.C.

The NRSC is not backing down on the endorsement of Crist over Rubio, specifically attacking the "30 senators" stance made famous by Jim DeMint. With Rubio not ceding to the will of the party, things could get ugly in Florida. Who do you think will win? Who should win? And will the donnybrook in the primaries give the Democrats a shot at the seat?

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