Commentary Magazine


Crist’s Escape Hatch Closes

Charlie Crist can stay in the Republican primary and lose, run as an independent and lose, or just go away. That’s what the polls seem to suggest, no doubt to the dismay of those who fancy the Republican party as Democrat-lite. This report observes that “the gilded political career of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is dangerously close to expiration.” What once seemed like a face-saving move — an independent bid — now sounds like a potential debacle:

Of the three alternatives, an independent bid might prove to be the most advantageous path to the Senate. But his top supporters and donors in Washington made clear Tuesday that they would yank their support if he left the Republican Party. … “If he runs as an independent, I think the best day he has is the day he announces,” a longtime Crist adviser conceded. “The normal rules of gravity apply. How do you raise money?” This source, who has talked to Crist about his decision, said, “I told him that every Republican official is going to support [Republican Senate challenger Marco] Rubio. And by telegraphing this, you’re making them jump.”

This is all a bit, well, pathetic. Crist was a respected governor, ran a horrid campaign, revealed himself to be badly out of touch with his party’s base, imagined he had some personal appeal that extended beyond party identification, and now faces humiliation. Florida is an expensive state in which to run a campaign, and the absence of an available fund-raising apparatus is a serious impediment to Crist’s running as an independent. He might still try to mount such a run – he’s got little to lose at this point, and he may have passed the point where a graceful exit is possible. Like his entire campaign, it won’t be pretty should he decide to test how much appeal he has without the “R” next to his name.