Winner and loser of the year in Florida politics
Winner of 2009: Marco Rubio. Eight months ago even some of his biggest admirers were calling him crazy and short-sighted. Why in world would the promising former Florida House Speaker launch a futile U.S. Senate campaign against an immensely popular sitting governor sure to raise vast amounts of money? Give it up, they urged him, and the attorney general’s nomination would be all his: He’d be poised from there to run for senate or governor. Instead, Rubio stuck to it. He courted national conservative media attention and excited hard core activists, while tea partiers and fed up conservatives became increasingly bent on teaching moderate Republicans like Crist a lesson. Today, Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist is among the marquee races across the country and Rubio is a star. Runner up: George LeMieux. Several candidates to replace Mel Martinez clearly were better qualified, but Crist appointed his friend, aide and political adviser to warm the seat, setting LeMieux up to run against Bill Nelson or at least hold the lucrative lifetime title of former U.S. Senator. Plus Crist has seemed so politically ham-handed in recent months, LeMieux seems like a brilliant adviser without whom Crist has been lost.
Loser of 2009. Charlie Crist. The governor’s uncanny political instincts used to be taken as an article of faith but now are starting to seem more like a myth. He badly over-estimated the electorate's hunger for bi-partisanship and forgot that eventually any politician hits a rough patch and needs his base to shore him up and stand behind him. He’s in real trouble at the opening of 2010, but nobody should count him out. He has a lot of cards to play over the next nine months. Runner up: Mel Martinez. He spent millions shredding fellow Republican Bill McCollum and then Democrat Betty Castor to win a U.S. Senate seat. Ultimately, he didn't have enough respect for the Florida electorate even to finish out his term.
What do the number one loser of 2009 and his runner up have in common? Public servants who wound up appearing to care far more about their own interests than that of Florida.