Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Crist tanned and ready for the next battle

The anticipation is barely restrained. The mystery of what's to come is shaping up to be Christmas Eve, the "Who shot J.R.?" episode of Dallas and the final installment of Harry Potter all rolled into one.

But all will be known on Monday, when at long last Charlie Crist will reveal his future intentions. Finally. What will he do? What will he do? Announce his ascendency to managing partner at Morgan & Morgan — For the Charlie? Throw his hat into the ring for C.W. Bill Young's congressional seat? Or maybe the former governor will be named the new head football coach for the Tampa Bay Chuckles, the Fighting Moths of Dale Mabry?

You just never know.

There is some idle speculation — and just where all this is coming from is anybody's guess — that Crist will declare his candidacy to become the Democratic Party nominee for governor against Republican incumbent Rick Scott. Do you think it's remotely possible?

There was a tanned, rested and ready Crist over the weekend at the state Democratic Party convention in full schmooze-a-palooza, hugging more people than Mickey Mouse, posing for pictures, vamping for the masses and still trying to be coyly puckish about visions of Tallahassee drifting through his dreams.

"I somewhat know what I'm going to do, but until you say it publicly it's not done," Crist insisted with a straight face to the Tampa Bay Times' Adam C. Smith. He somewhat knows? That's like Gen. Sherman claiming he hadn't made his mind up yet about burning Atlanta even as the kerosene was being poured.

Crist has been positioning himself to take on Scott since about 20 minutes after the 2010 ballots were counted to send Republican Marco Rubio, Florida's loyal tea party Lhasa apso, to the Senate.

To be sure, for many Democrats who prefer their candidates for governor to be cut from the LeRoy Collins/Reubin Askew/Bob Graham/Lawton Chiles bolt of cloth, the idea of Crist carrying the party's mantle requires a big gulp of pragmatism.

Florida Republicans (read: Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, the Heritage Foundation and the Tricorner Hat Manufacturers Association) are drooling over the prospect of taking on Crist. They will note Crist's long years in office as a Republican, then his move to become an independent and finally his decision to throw in with the Democrats — all for crass ambition and political opportunism.

To which Crist might respond: "Yeah? So? Is that all you got?"

Everyone in Florida knows Crist and his history in public life. They know about his party switching. They know about his evolution from "Chain Gang" Charlie to moderate governor. And they know about his apostasy for having once man-hugged Barack Obama in support of the $787 billion stimulus package. If someone wants to give your state billions in federal money, a warm embrace would seem to be appropriate.

The anticipated assault by Republicans might have some traction if the party didn't have someone at the top of their ticket with lower public approval ratings than the mayor of Deadwood.

How problematic are Scott's prospects for re-election? Forget Crist for a moment. In some polls, the incumbent governor who bought the office with $70 million of his own money and now has collected millions in special interest cash barely prevails over former Broward County Democratic state Sen. Nan Rich, who has collected about $1.35, some bus tokens and a few scratch-off lottery tickets.

It's not a good sign when even if against Occupant you are still possibly looking at one term and out.

Democrats understand that ideological purity aside, the idea of a campaign is to win the election.

Come 2014, voters will have a choice between keeping the incumbent governor of the Villages of the Programmed or giving Florida's eternally Happy Hobnobber a second chance.

What will they do? What will they do?

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