Saturday, February 24, 2018
Politics

Is this Charming Charlie Crist's second act?

Here in Florida we do love our political dramas, even if they are not necessarily helpful in staying on task for the good of the state — kind of like finding yourself caught up in an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

But if politics were TV, this would be sweeps, with a presidential election looming and a faceoff of over-the-top pep rallies in Tampa and Charlotte. It's who's up, who's down, and — surprise! — a former lead character returns from the dead, making us gasp, or swoon, or shake our fists, depending on where we sit.

But what fun: Charlie Crist is back.

Some have called our deeply-tanned, white-haired former governor (and more notably, former Republican) Teflon for all the things we know about him that nonetheless do not seem to stick — like back when he touted prison chain gangs, or predicted failure for Barack Obama, the very guy he rallied for this week.

Some call him a political chameleon. Others just refer to him as Dead To Me.

I've always thought of Charlie as more akin to Gumby: friendly, familiar, willing to bend this way and that — his current posture being sticking out his chin to the party he left, or the party that left him, depending on whom you ask.

Maybe you thought you'd seen his final episode in terms of politics after he went Indy and was beaten for that U.S. Senate seat. But here he came this week, walking on stage at the Democrats' big event, wearing a warm blue tie that said "trust me," there to thoroughly love up the president.

He's done it before, with that man-hug on an Obama visit here in 2009 that got the stink-eye from his party. And I remember thinking: Wow. We have come to the point where the appropriate behavior upon meeting a president with whom your party disagrees is apparently to spit on the ground, twice, and look away.

But Charming Charlie is back.

"I'll be honest with you — I don't agree with President Obama about everything," he said this week, and, right, like the time he dissed Obama's health care overhaul. But he praised the president for his actions in the wake of the gulf oil disaster and for his "cool head, "caring heart," and "open mind." Take that, former party bros!

Some unswayed Democrats in the audience busied themselves picking gum off their loafers or de-linting Lifesavers from their purses. The Republicans he left (or who left him, depending on whom you ask) were likely howling at C-SPAN when they heard him call them "beholden to the 'my way or the highway' bullies, indebted to billionaires who bankroll their ads, and allergic to the very idea of compromise."

He cheekily predicted even Ronald Reagan would agree.

Were this an episode of Dallas, right about then Charlie and some Republican would have been throwing punches and rolling around in the Southfork dirt.

But who can resist Charlie On His Game? Even the first lady is said to have blown him a kiss.

Next: The plot twist, the gubernatorial cliffhanger.

Will Charlie try to win the hearts of Democrats and defeat the unpopular Republican Gov. Rick Scott for the comeback story of the decade?

With Florida politics having more drama than your average Real Housewives of New Jersey, stay tuned.

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