It was in the glow of a new day in politics last February when Mr. Crist, this state’s popular Republican governor, took the stage with President Obama and declared that Republicans and Democrats had to rise above partisanship in support of an economic stimulus. And Mr. Obama embraced him.
Oops. Crist has a primary fight against the charismatic, conservative Marco Rubio, who has made opposition to Obamaism the cornerstone of his message. And that is a popular theme these days with the Republican base. They are in no mood to embrace, figuratively or otherwise, Obama. And the stimulus that caught Crist’s fancy is widely regarded, even outside the conservative base, as a bust.
Belatedly, Washington Republicans have gotten the message. Once racing to endorse Crist, the Republican Senate Campaign Committee is now in full retreat (“hounded by conservative bloggers, Mr. [John] Cornyn announced this month that he did not plan to spend any money in the primary”).
What is Rubio offering? “He argues for small government and reduced spending, but mostly, he talks about the need to stop what he calls the Obama agenda. ‘The bottom line is that if you’re a Republican, the Republican Party should be an alternative, not a facsimile,’ he said in an interview. ‘And I think I offer that.’” No hugs there.
Think of it this way: Crist has taken the Lindsay Graham approach; Rubio, the Bob McDonnell approach. If next year the Republican electorate is in a mood to accommodate Obamaism, Crist will cruise. If not, he’s in trouble. Yeah, I think so too.