Charlie Crist has gone from popular governor to besieged Senate primary candidate in a matter of months. He’s still on the defensive about his endorsement of the stimulus boondoggle, telling a local editorial board (after trying to scoot away from his embrace of Obama) that he’s really glad he had cheered the plan:
“People are hurting and they’re suffering. I hear about it every day. That’s frankly why I thought the stimulus was so important,” Crist said. “I know there are some in my party that don’t agree with that, but I don’t have the luxury of putting politics over people.”
Well, hardly anyone in his party agrees with him, but at least he’s settled on a position. And now he’s refashioning himself as a hard-core conservative:
“It’s hard to be more conservative than I am on issues — there’s different ways stylistically to communicate that — I’m pro-life, I’m pro-gun, I’m pro-family, and I’m anti-tax. I don’t know what else you’re supposed to be, except maybe angry too,” said Crist, who as a state legislator voted against abortion restrictions and more recently supported increasing cigarette taxes in Florida and the federal $787 billion stimulus package.
Ouch. Well, maybe not all that conservative. Some decried the fact that there is a primary at all, arguing that this was all a horrid notion, having Republicans contest one another for a Senate seat. But it’s turned out to be a pretty good idea, the very thing that was missing in the NY-23 circus. Primaries serve a useful purpose — sniffing out poor candidates, uncovering their foibles, testing party enthusiasm, and allowing the candidates to test-run campaign themes. So far at least, Crist has proved to be a remarkably inept candidate, allowing the lesser-known and lesser-funded Marco Rubio to make his way into a competitive race.
Though the mainstream media and even a few snooty pundits think it’s evidence of the GOP’s weakness, a race like this suggests just the opposite. After all, a democracy is supposed to be contentious, messy, and surprising. And the Florida Senate primary is all of them.