Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Erin Isaac looks like a sacrificial lamb for Crist's image woes

TALLAHASSEE — For nearly four years, Erin Isaac was a constant, hard-working presence at the side of Charlie Crist, loyally serving spin and positive imagery for a governor who until recently performed capably as his own best spokesman.

It was Isaac who could be heard on TV shouting "Last question!" in an often fruitless effort to stop reporters from interrogating her boss. She helped get Crist national exposure on shows like Face the Nation and Meet the Press when he was riding high in 2008, and she helped engineer Crist's recent defense of embattled FSU coach Bobby Bowden, which riled some Seminole boosters but earned Crist a lot of exposure on ESPN.

At 31, she had a dream job as long as his approval ratings remained sky high. She was his protector as well as his press agent.

But this week, Isaac suddenly and awkwardly resigned as Crist's $100,000-a-year communications director at a time when the governor appears to need a sharply honed message more than ever. Isaac looks like a sacrificial lamb — or is it a scapegoat? — for Crist's current image woes.

In one final burst of spin, she said she was leaving to consider new career opportunities, labeling as false news accounts that she was dismissed.

But the political universe was nearly unanimous in its judgment that she had been shown the door after weeks of unrelenting negative press for Florida's governor.

Who quits a six-figure job midweek with the holidays approaching and the state unemployment rate at 11 percent? You don't need a communications degree to answer the question.

Isaac quit Wednesday, a day after news broke that Crist had plucked Andrea Saul, a 27-year-old from Sen. Orrin Hatch's office, to handle press relations for his U.S. Senate campaign. Isaac has no job offer in hand, and the governor's office has no one lined up to take her place — obvious signs of a botched personnel move.

In reality, Isaac saw the handwriting on the wall, that she was no longer viewed as indispensable to Crist's political success. It was a surprisingly abrupt career move for an aide Crist once praised as talented, dedicated and hard working at a reception for Capitol reporters.

Isaac's exit offers a cautionary tale: Never hitch your career wagon to one politician, because what goes up must come down.

In addition, she made some enemies in the worlds of politics, lobbying and the media. And Crist, despite strong loyalty to his effective 2006 campaign press secretary, several weeks ago began instructing reporters to call him directly on his cell phone — a sign of trouble ahead.

Once viewed as equal to a chief of staff in terms of access to and influence with the governor, Isaac began showing up less and less in public with Crist.

At the same time, the tone of Crist's media coverage grew darker, culminating in Crist's widely criticized efforts in a CNN interview to distance himself from President Barack Obama's stimulus package, and the governor's claim that he didn't know Obama's itinerary for a recent visit to Jacksonville.

Isaac wasn't returning phone calls after she resigned. But she did send a gracious e-mail in which she expressed gratitude to Crist "for the amazing opportunities."

Crist may yet become Florida's newest U.S. senator, but Erin Isaac won't be at his side. In politics, loyalty has its limits.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at or (850) 224-7263.

Erin Isaac looks like a sacrificial lamb for Crist's image woes 11/13/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 13, 2009 11:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Manhattan Casino choice causes political headache for Kriseman


    ST. PETERSBURG — Days before the mayoral primary, Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to let a Floribbean restaurant open in Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino has caused political angst within the voting bloc he can least afford to lose: the black community.

    Last week Mayor Rick Kriseman chose a Floribbean restaurant concept to fill Midtown's historic Manhattan Casino. But that decision, made days before next week's mayoral primary, has turned into a political headache for the mayor. Many residents want to see the building's next tenant better reflect its cultural significance in the black community. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  2. FSU-Bama 'almost feels like a national championship game Week 1'


    The buzz is continuing to build for next Saturday's blockbuster showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State.

  3. Plan a fall vacation at Disney, Universal, Busch Gardens when crowds are light


    Now that the busy summer vacation season is ending, Floridians can come out to play.

    Maria Reyna, 8, of Corpus Cristi, TX. eats chicken at the Lotus Blossom Cafe at the Chinese pavilion at Epcot in Orlando, Fla. on Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Epcot is celebrating it's 35th year as the upcoming Food and Wine Festival kicks off once again.
  4. USF spends $1.5 million to address growing demand for student counseling


    TAMPA — As Florida's universities stare down a mental health epidemic, the University of South Florida has crafted a plan it hopes will reach all students, from the one in crisis to the one who doesn't know he could use some help.

    A student crosses the University of South Florida campus in Tampa, where visits to the school's crisis center more than doubled last year, part of a spike in demand that has affected colleges across the country. The university is addressing the issue this year with $1.5 million for more "wellness coaches," counselors, online programs and staff training. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. PTA treasurer at Pinellas school accused of stealing $5,000


    The treasurer of the Parent-Teacher Association at a Pinellas County elementary school faces a felony fraud charge after she was accused of stealing from the organization to pay her credit card and phone bills.

    Lisa McMenamin, 50, of Tarpon Springs, is facing felony charges of scheming to defraud the Brooker Creek Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, where she served as treasurer. She is accused of stealing $5,000 to pay credit card and phone bills. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]