Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Crist calls Florida a model for future of GOP

TALLAHASSEE — Barely a week after Barack Obama's decisive victory, Republican governors across the country gather in Miami today for two days of exploring how to find their way out of the wilderness.

The host of the Republican Governors' Association event is Florida's Charlie Crist, a big believer in the "big tent" theory who calls his way of governing "a model for the country."

But Crist will have to share the stage with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who was wildly popular with the conservative base of the GOP that remains a little wary of Crist.

"I think there's room for both Charlie Crist and Sarah Palin," said Brian Ballard, a lobbyist and fundraiser for Crist and John McCain. "If we don't embrace both, we're in trouble."

The second-guessing is well under way. In hindsight, Ballard, a member of McCain's national finance team, wonders if McCain might have won two critical states, Ohio and Pennsylvania, if he had picked former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who was discounted because he favors abortion rights.

"I wonder if we might rethink that," Ballard said.

Crist is one of several Republican governors who will address the convention. Others include Rick Perry of Texas, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.

But it is likely to be Palin who eclipses them all. Since last week's election defeat, the former vice presidential nominee has kept a very high profile with interviews and appearances in which she has said she'll "plow through that door" of a presidential run if it's God's will and conditions are right.

In Miami, Palin will give a speech about the future of the GOP Thursday, and before that she'll take questions from reporters.

It's hard to imagine the future Palin outlines will look like the one Crist would propose. He is a Republican who picked two social conservatives for back-to-back openings on the Florida Supreme Court, and whose opposition to higher taxes has earned him an A from the conservative Cato Institute, one of only three governors with that grade. Once an opponent of offshore oil drilling, he now would support it under certain conditions.

But Crist's priorities include addressing climate change and restoring civil rights of felons, and some Floridians are still waiting for their property tax bills to "drop like a rock," as he promised last year.

He has appointed Democrats to high-level state posts, and he took the advice of a Democratic legislator in extending the hours of early voting before last week's election, a step some viewed as favorable to Obama.

"I know I received some criticism from within my party by extending the hours for early voting," Crist said. "But at the end of the day, you've got to try to do what's right for all the people you serve."

As Republicans analyze last week's results, they need look no further than outside their hotel to see how Floridians split their tickets.

Miami-Dade gave Obama a huge 140,000-vote margin, but also returned three Republicans to Congress. Even as voters embraced diversity by choosing the nation's first black president, they also approved a ban on gay marriage in the Florida Constitution.

Crist says the key to success is for Republicans to be like him: work with Democrats, seek "common sense" solutions and avoid wedge issues that divide Floridians.

"I'm very proud of how our administration has been able to bring people together in a bipartisan fashion — almost a nonpartisan fashion," he said.

Crist's centrist, hopeful style has kept his approval ratings strong even during a prolonged economic slump, but it has at times strained his support among conservatives in his own party.

Crist will reach the midway point of his first term in a few weeks, and is busy planning his wedding in St. Petersburg next month while trying again to figure how to close the latest state budget shortfall of at least $1-billion without raising taxes.

He received 52 percent of the vote in 2006, in part due to the votes of Hispanics and a larger-than-expected share of African-American support.

Exit polls show both groups voted decisively for Obama in Florida.

Asked how the Republicans can win some of them back, Crist said: "You continue to push forward on issues like restoring felons' rights. That you demonstrate in a way that's manifested that all people of the state are important. … Everyone's included, and everyone's invited to the table."

This report includes information from the Associated Press. Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Crist calls Florida a model for future of GOP 11/11/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 14, 2008 8:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Exposé 'Champions Way' uses FSU to illustrate bad behavior in college programs


    While the entire college football universe was focused on a sexual assault allegation against quarterback Jameis Winston during Florida State's 2013 national title run, another off-field scandal was playing out quietly.

     Jameis Winston (5) warms up before the game between Florida State Seminoles and the University of Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013.
  2. How a group of Florida tomato growers could help derail NAFTA


    Tony DiMare, a third-generation Florida tomato grower, has spent two decades contending with cheap Mexican imports, watching his neighbors abandon crops in their fields and sell off their farms when they couldn't match the price of incoming produce.

    Workers fill a trailer with tomatoes as they harvest them in the fields of DiMare Farms in Florida City. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images(2013)]
  3. Pinellas deputies go door-to-door at dawn to arrest unlicensed contractors


    Pinellas deputies began pounding on doors at 5 a.m. Tuesday, part of a widespread roundup of contractors accused of working without licences and workers compensation.

    Pinellas Sheriff deputies J. Short, left, and T. Festa, right, arrest suspect Randy Ronchi, center, in Largo early Tuesday, as part of a joint roundup of unlicensed contractors. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  4. New Florida driver's licenses available in Tampa Bay

    State Roundup

    The new Florida IDs are beginning to roll out across the state, with some locations in Tampa Bay already carrying the cards.

    The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles announced it will begin to issue the new Florida driver license and ID card this month in various locations across the state. [Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles]
  5. Come on down, former 'Price Is Right' announcer Rich Fields; you're the new afternoon DJ on Q105


    There's a new afternoon drive host on classic hits radio station WRBQ-FM, better known as "Q105."

    Rich Fields will be heard on Q105 from 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays.