Rubio has to beat history as well

Marco Rubio is beating Gov. Charlie Crist in the latest poll.

In other news, the Jets were beating the Colts 17-6 for a while on Sunday. The Colts won the game.

Sure, Rubio is a threat to Crist in the Republican side of the race to be Florida's next U.S. senator.

Rubio is red-hot. He is dynamic. He is charming. He is loquacious. He is the darling of conservatives. He has rocketed into contention.

Still …

The past 18 years of Florida politics are littered with people who stood exactly where Rubio stands now.

Every one, Democrat or Republican, considered themselves a better choice. Every one thought it was perfectly obvious that Crist was a lightweight, a fake.

In fact, we already had this Republican primary. It was just four years ago. Many of the same folks were involved, confident Crist was finished.

The 2006 pretender was Tom Gallagher, a onetime moderate pro-choicer who grew up to become Mr. Moral Values. The right embraced him like a prodigal son.

Gallagher and conservative groups pounded away, accusing Crist of "a liberal plan to increase state spending by billions" and having only "bumper-sticker answers."

Crist, 64 percent; Gallagher, 33.

In 2002, Crist ran for attorney general against two other Republicans. One, Locke Burt, ran as the tough-on-crime guy: "Lock 'Em Up Locke."

Burt attacked Crist's lack of substance, saying: "I'm running as the top cop, Tom (Warner) is running as the world's smartest lawyer — and Charlie's just running."

A Warner billboard mocked the fact Crist initially flunked the bar exam: "Sorry, Charlie, these grades aren't good enough for attorney general."

Crist, 50 percent; Warner, 27 percent; Burt, 23 percent.

Crist has lost two elections: his rookie try for the Legislature in 1986, and a doomed challenge to U.S. Sen. Bob Graham in 1998. Even that loss built a statewide presence; he was elected education commissioner two years later, then attorney general.

He has made a career out of running over formidable, veteran opponents: Helen Gordon Davis, an institution of Hillsborough politics, in a 1992 state Senate race; George Sheldon (now Crist's secretary of the Department of Children and Families) in the 2000 education commissioner's race; Buddy Dyer, a former legislator and mayor of Orlando, in the 2002 attorney general's race; and Jim Davis, the former member of Congress, in the 2006 general election.

The tea partiers do not like him. The leftmost half of the Democratic Party does not like him. That leaves him with a mainstream goodwill, and even now, a 50 percent approval rating. Hitting him on issues is like punching a big fluffy pillow.

He has raised $7.5 million and is a shameless campaigner — he does not care whether his opponents think his claims are ridiculous. Crist will be Ronald Reagan, flags waving, claiming that he cut taxes, fought the liberals, improved Florida's schools, and saved the economy. As for Rubio, today's media darling is tomorrow's target.

Last, Crist is certain to beat the Democrats in November; Rubio less so. It matters.

I'm just saying. Others have been in Rubio's shoes before, only to end up asking themselves, as in the old skit on Saturday Night Live: "How can I possibly be losing to this man?" Yet they did.

Rubio has to beat history as well 01/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2010 6:52pm]

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