Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Politics

Romano: Far left shift won't help Charlie Crist back to the governor's mansion

The temptation must be great.

For a man running for the highest executive office in a state, the natural inclination is to wrap one's self in the flag of one's political party as if it were a superhero's cape.

Yet for Charlie Crist — one-time Republican, one-time independent, current-day Democrat — that temptation must be resisted at all costs.

For, no matter how hard he tries, he will never be SuperDem.

And he will not return to the governor's mansion by making a grand show of how far to the left he can move on any given issue.

This isn't about policies, and it isn't about philosophies. It isn't about liberals, and it isn't about conservatives. It's about believability. And trust.

Voters can buy the idea that the GOP has grown more strident, and they can accept the idea of a candidate's views changing over time, but their naivety is not limitless.

And, lately, it feels like Crist is challenging that notion.

He can justify his new position on same-sex marriages — a good portion of America has evolved on that issue. And he can justify his newfound support for in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants — even Republicans are embracing that one.

He can be more supportive of Obamacare than he once was, and he can declare that previous positions on Cuba have been ineffective.

But there's a difference between evolving and being an opportunist.

So when Crist proposes a game-changing trip to Cuba, it feels like grandstanding. And when he tries to paint the entire GOP with a bigot's brush when it comes to criticizing the president, it sounds irresponsible.

Heaven knows it can be a harrowing journey for a politician to navigate the gulf from one party to another, and the last thing a candidate needs is to complicate the trip with unnecessary stunts along the way.

For Crist, that is especially true.

His career wasn't built on the premise that he was a policy wonk or a partisan champion. Crist was a people person. A guy who could connect with voters no matter what their color, gender or political persuasion.

If anyone can persuade Floridians to cross party lines, it should be Crist. But he's not going to do it by reinventing himself. He needs to be the same guy he always appeared to be, standing in the center of the political universe where many of us seem to reside.

I suppose he might feel as if he needs to establish his Democratic bona fides while Nan Rich is still in the race, but that's short-term thinking. Moving from right to left in the primary, and then nudging back to the right for the general election is too much.

The best thing Crist has going for him is a lot of people seem to like him personally. He has always looked like a guy who cares. There's a lot of cachet in that image, and it has nothing to do with whether he supports this hot-button issue or that controversial topic.

Crist will have plenty of time to talk about policies and define his positions in the coming months. He shouldn't spend the early summer making people question his sincerity with outlandish remarks or hard-to-explain shifts.

Crist has a chance to once again be Florida's governor.

He shouldn't risk it by becoming a political caricature.

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