Saturday, February 24, 2018
Opinion

Crist doing what politicians do: Angling for victory

Don't they make a lovely couple?

Barack and Charlie — a bromance made in hustings heaven.

Much has been made of former Gov. Charlie Crist suddenly discovering his inner Adlai Stevenson and showing up at the Democratic National Convention to throw air kisses in the general direction of President Barack Obama.

For the former Republican, this is a bit like former Florida State University coach Bobby Bowden admitting he is a closet Florida Gator fan.

But there he was, Crist in all his full-blown tanship, supporting a second Obama term.

Some people found this epiphany annoying — mostly Republicans and Democrats, who at least seem united in the theory that Crist's political party reassignment surgery is a crass, opportunistic, craven strategy to revive his political prospects.

Yeah? So? After all, it's not as if the governor has leaped feet first into the Democratic camp. He's spending time as a voter registered with no party affiliation for a while, as if he is in a 12-step program to detox his politics of GOP radicals.

Crist offered up the tired notion that he didn't leave the Republican Party; the Republican Party left him.

Not quite. Crist was practically given the bum's rush out of the GOP after he had the audacity of good manners to warmly welcome Obama to Florida and accept a boatload of stimulus money.

For his sin of common sense, Crist was denied a U.S. Senate seat, which eventually went to a handsome Miami 12-year-old. And since then the former governor has been walking the streets of St. Petersburg contemplating his next political move.

It is conventional wisdom that Crist is positioning himself to run for governor in 2014. This might be a very technical political science term some of you might not understand, but — Duh!

Ruminating whether Crist will run for office requires all the analytical powers of wondering if Chris Rock will utter a naughty word in his next stand-up comedy routine.

Of course he's going to run.

Crist is a self-confessed politician. Politicians need to pursue office. Crist without a campaign, without a hand to shake, or a baby to kiss, or a crowd to schmooze, is like watching Tiger Woods ambling about a golf course without his clubs.

He will run because he's a first-rate retail politician. He will run because at heart it's what he does. And he will run because he thinks he can win.

During Crist's appearance at the DNC some grumpy Democrats, who were starting to act as if they were opening their own tea party starter kit, questioned the former governor's sincerity.

Florida Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith was suspicious of Crist's intellectual honesty by throwing in his lot with the party of JFK, FDR and Jefferson, suggesting the governor would have some "s'plaining" to do regarding his former Republican association.

What's to explain? It's pretty simple. As former President Bill Clinton observed, it's all about arithmetic. Elections are simple. You get more votes than the other guy — you win.

Come 2014, the challenge is awfully basic. If the Democrats can't come up with a candidate who can defeat bumbling Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott, who makes Dagwood Bumstead look like Warren Buffet, they pretty much deserve whatever happens to them.

And if the Democrats are going to start imposing an ideological purity test on candidates before welcoming them into the fold, they are no better than the dogmatic oafs on the Republican right who drove the likes of Utah's Robert Bennett and Indiana's Richard Lugar out of their Senate seats.

The idea that professional politicians who spend their entire waking moments plotting, strategizing, conniving, angling to gain any edge, would take umbrage at Crist for doing exactly that to advance his own political agenda is beyond ridiculous.

Instead of treating Crist as if he's an uninvited interloper, Smith and the rest of the Democrats should welcome him with open arms, if for nothing else than to watch one of the state's best politicos in action again.

Do you want purity? Or do you want to win?

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