Charlie Crist as the new Tom Gallagher
When people talk about the threat Marco Rubio poses to Charlie Crist's Senate plans, Crist backers tend to invoke two words: Tom Gallagher. He was the last Republican who tried to win a GOP primary by hailing conservative principles and trying to depict Crist as too moderate.
"It's hard to get to the right of Chain Gang Charlie,'' Crist said, shortly before crushing Gallagher in that 2006 gubernatorial primary by more than 30 points.
This time, it's striking to see the similarities between the Crist of today and the Gallagher of 2006. Just like Gallagher did with Crist two years ago, Crist tried and failed to quickly shove aside former state House Speaker Rubio by overpowering him with GOP establishment support and fundraising prowess.
And just like Gallagher, a lifelong moderate who had supported tax increases, gun control and abortion rights and faced constant skepticism about his conservatism, Crist's attacks on excessive spending in Washington are constantly drawing scoffs from people who well remember Crist campaigning for passage of President Barack Obama's stimulus package.
"It gets hard to pass the straight-face test with voters, and especially with you reporters," said Brett Doster, who managed Gallagher's campaign and constantly struggled to overcome skepticism that Gallagher believed what he said. "I hate to say this, but Charlie is becoming the new Tom Gallagher."