These days it's not easy being Florida GOP Governor Charlie Crist. The once and future king of the ‘new' Republican Party---he had been a rumored early choice to be John McCain's VP choice before the RNC demanded to try to tap Hillary Clinton's voters with Sarah Palin---has seen his popularity recede faster than a tsunami wave heading back out to sea.
Worse still, the governor decided to run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Republican Mel Martinez. At the time Crist declared his candidacy, odds favored that Crocodile Charlie would handily defeat any and all comers who might contest the seat. After all, he was a telegenic governor; had all the right connections; had ample conservative bona fides; and most importantly, had a campaign war chest that Ponce de Leon would have envied.
Enter Marco Rubio, the Republican former Speaker of the House for Florida: younger, more telegenic with darker hair and bicultural pull in a state heavy on Hispanic conservatism. The statewide electorate thought Rubio nuts to try to take on the Crist juggernaut and told him so. Undaunted, Rubio dove in and dug in; and now, in just under six months, he has not only eliminated a Crist lead that was once double-digits, but Rubio himself is now ahead of Crist by better than 10 points according to the latest Rasmussen News poll.
Despite an impressive Florida political career that includes stints as a Florida State Senator, Education Commissioner, Attorney General, and now Governor, Crist has done himself no favors with state conservatives who view his bipartisan leanings as wishy-washy and his brand of conservatism not far enough to the right.
For example, despite working closely with John McCain during the Arizona senator's presidential campaign in 2008, Crist warmly embraced President Barak Obama in order to gain billions for the state from the president's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
This was done at a time when other governors, like Louisiana's Bobby Jindall, were refusing to tap the assistance to show disdain for Obama's stimulus spending plans. At the time, Crist characterized his decision as being one he made with the best interests of Floridians at heart ,adding that the American people had spoken during the presidential election and vowing that the only way America was going to get through tough economic times was through bipartisan teamwork and compromise.
For a Republican governor it was a bold pronouncement, and flew in the face of the GOP wound-licking taking place after the election. Little did Crist know that statement, and that position of bucking up a new Democratic president would be one of the biggest obstacles to his run for U.S. Senate.
Curiously, one year later when President and Mrs. Obama came to Miami for the dedication of the Freedom Tower museum, Crist did not attend; and even claimed to media at one point that he was "not aware the president was even coming to Florida".
For his part, Marco Rubio has been able to expose Crist's flip-flops of convenience, while at the same time tapping into the simmering discontent of Tea Party advocates to steer the Florida electorate further to the right of Crist.
Now, after a distinguished career in service to the state of Florida, governor and aspiring Senator Charlie Crist finds himself in the fight of his political life. And, as if that weren't enough, he is embroiled in a nasty lawsuit with suspended Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones over the governor's right to suspend her twice until federal charges against her are resolved.
Keep up with Florida Elections 2010 here.
Stay abreast of local and national issues with Miami Political Buzz Examiner, here.
Know someone who is a huge fan of Bon Jovi? Tell them about Bon Jovi Examiner, here.