Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gov.

Crist Crumbles

Charlie Crist is apparently throwing in the towel on the Republican primary — and what remains of his political future. Politico reports:

Florida GOP Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a Republican-supported teacher pay bill Thursday, a move that heightened speculation that he is considering waging an independent bid for Senate.

The contentious bill, which would have linked teacher pay to student test results, carried the backing of prominent Republican legislators and had been promoted by popular former GOP Gov. Jeb Bush, who championed the measure through his foundation in TV ads.The legislation was loudly opposed by teachers’ unions, who flooded Crist’s office with letters in opposition to the bill.

This might make sense — if independents were enamored of public employees’ unions and against school reform. But they aren’t, and its the sort of thing that will make Crist unpopular with everyone but the teachers’ union, which will no doubt support the Democrat in the general election anyway. No wonder Crist’s campaign chairman quit. It was the type of move for which Crist has now become infamous — combining bad politics with bad policy.

Moreover, Crist managed to infuriate popular ex-governor Jeb Bush, who’s as yet not made an official endorsement in the race. But his statement lashing out at Crist’s veto is the sort of thing Marco Rubio will be putting in his campaign ads:

I am disappointed by the veto of Senate Bill 6. … By taking this action, Governor Crist has jeopardized the ability of Florida to build on the progress of the last decade, which includes raising student achievement across the board, narrowing the achievement gap for poor and minority students, and improving graduation rates. Florida’s sustained improvement is the result of bold reforms that were challenging, controversial and sometimes even unpopular. Reform is hard work but without a commitment to change, Florida would not be 8th in the nation today.

All in all, it was a harebrained move by a politician who has demonstrated why it is a very good thing to have contested primaries: voters can figure out who’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Charlie Crist is apparently throwing in the towel on the Republican primary — and what remains of his political future. Politico reports:

Florida GOP Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a Republican-supported teacher pay bill Thursday, a move that heightened speculation that he is considering waging an independent bid for Senate.

The contentious bill, which would have linked teacher pay to student test results, carried the backing of prominent Republican legislators and had been promoted by popular former GOP Gov. Jeb Bush, who championed the measure through his foundation in TV ads.The legislation was loudly opposed by teachers’ unions, who flooded Crist’s office with letters in opposition to the bill.

This might make sense — if independents were enamored of public employees’ unions and against school reform. But they aren’t, and its the sort of thing that will make Crist unpopular with everyone but the teachers’ union, which will no doubt support the Democrat in the general election anyway. No wonder Crist’s campaign chairman quit. It was the type of move for which Crist has now become infamous — combining bad politics with bad policy.

Moreover, Crist managed to infuriate popular ex-governor Jeb Bush, who’s as yet not made an official endorsement in the race. But his statement lashing out at Crist’s veto is the sort of thing Marco Rubio will be putting in his campaign ads:

I am disappointed by the veto of Senate Bill 6. … By taking this action, Governor Crist has jeopardized the ability of Florida to build on the progress of the last decade, which includes raising student achievement across the board, narrowing the achievement gap for poor and minority students, and improving graduation rates. Florida’s sustained improvement is the result of bold reforms that were challenging, controversial and sometimes even unpopular. Reform is hard work but without a commitment to change, Florida would not be 8th in the nation today.

All in all, it was a harebrained move by a politician who has demonstrated why it is a very good thing to have contested primaries: voters can figure out who’s a disaster waiting to happen.

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Coakley: The Buzzards Gather

Just as I suggested this week, Democrats are now attempting, according to Byron York, to Creigh Deeds-ize Martha Coakley. If she is in fact tanking, now is the time to write her off as a damaged and enfeebled candidate, lest anyone suspect that this is a reflection on Democrats’ political liabilities. York suggests that Coakley’s own polls show her trailing by 5 points. So the buzzards are circling:

“This is a Creigh Deeds situation,” the Democrat says. “I don’t think it says that the Obama agenda is a problem. I think it says, 1) that she’s a terrible candidate, 2) that she ran a terrible campaign, 3) that the climate is difficult but she should have been able to overcome it, and 4) that Democrats beware — you better run good campaigns, or you’re going to lose.”

They do have a point. Not only is she a lackluster candidate, she has, as Dorothy Rabinowitz documents in painstaking fashion, shown herself to be profoundly lacking in judgment, as evidenced by her conduct in a sensational child-sexual-abuse case in which horrifying, and ultimately unsubstantiated, accusations were made against the Amirault family. Rabinowitz describes Coakley’s role in the case’s unraveling as Gerald Amirault was spared his full 30-to-40-year sentence:

In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald’s sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted.

Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board’s findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.

Rabinowitz argues that if Coakley believed the preposterous allegations in that case, which “no serious citizen does,” then “that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley’s concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.”

Perhaps, then, there’s a measure of truth to Democrats’ whispering campaign. Coakley may simply be in over her head, a woman of flawed judgment and limited political skills. In any other year, that might not be a barrier to election for a Democrat in a deep Blue State. But this is no ordinary year.

Just as I suggested this week, Democrats are now attempting, according to Byron York, to Creigh Deeds-ize Martha Coakley. If she is in fact tanking, now is the time to write her off as a damaged and enfeebled candidate, lest anyone suspect that this is a reflection on Democrats’ political liabilities. York suggests that Coakley’s own polls show her trailing by 5 points. So the buzzards are circling:

“This is a Creigh Deeds situation,” the Democrat says. “I don’t think it says that the Obama agenda is a problem. I think it says, 1) that she’s a terrible candidate, 2) that she ran a terrible campaign, 3) that the climate is difficult but she should have been able to overcome it, and 4) that Democrats beware — you better run good campaigns, or you’re going to lose.”

They do have a point. Not only is she a lackluster candidate, she has, as Dorothy Rabinowitz documents in painstaking fashion, shown herself to be profoundly lacking in judgment, as evidenced by her conduct in a sensational child-sexual-abuse case in which horrifying, and ultimately unsubstantiated, accusations were made against the Amirault family. Rabinowitz describes Coakley’s role in the case’s unraveling as Gerald Amirault was spared his full 30-to-40-year sentence:

In 2000, the Massachusetts Governor’s Board of Pardons and Paroles met to consider a commutation of Gerald’s sentence. After nine months of investigation, the board, reputed to be the toughest in the country, voted 5-0, with one abstention, to commute his sentence. Still more newsworthy was an added statement, signed by a majority of the board, which pointed to the lack of evidence against the Amiraults, and the “extraordinary if not bizarre allegations” on which they had been convicted.

Editorials in every major and minor paper in the state applauded the Board’s findings. District Attorney Coakley was not idle either, and quickly set about organizing the parents and children in the case, bringing them to meetings with Acting Gov. Jane Swift, to persuade her to reject the board’s ruling. Ms. Coakley also worked the press, setting up a special interview so that the now adult accusers could tell reporters, once more, of the tortures they had suffered at the hands of the Amiraults, and of their panic at the prospect of Gerald going free.

Rabinowitz argues that if Coakley believed the preposterous allegations in that case, which “no serious citizen does,” then “that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley’s concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo—her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.”

Perhaps, then, there’s a measure of truth to Democrats’ whispering campaign. Coakley may simply be in over her head, a woman of flawed judgment and limited political skills. In any other year, that might not be a barrier to election for a Democrat in a deep Blue State. But this is no ordinary year.

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A New Ballgame, Perhaps

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

If one looks at the recent polling for senate and gubernatorial races in 2010, it looks like the flip side of 2008. Then it was a sea of blue; now there is a lot of red. In swing states like Ohio, John Kasich is ahead of incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland and Rob Portman has made up ground against potential Democratic opponents in the senate contest. In Connecticut, Sen. Chris Dodd is in trouble, and in Pennsylvania Pat Toomey is running strongly against both Democratic contenders. There are two noteworthy aspects to these and other races (e.g., Nevada and New Hampshire senate contests): the Republicans’ new found appeal in diverse regions and the burden of incumbency, which is currently weighing down veteran Democrats.

The worry for Republicans after the 2008 wipe out was that their base was shrinking to white, religious males from the South. Independents, women, and minorities were falling away. But the victories of Bob McDonnell in Virginia and Chris Christie in New Jersey, as well as the strong standing of 2010 Republican candidates in the Northeast, Midwest, and Mountain West (e.g., the Colorado and Nevada senate races), suggest that voters around the country haven’t permanently shifted loyalties. In 2008 they were miffed at the Republicans, wary of the economic collapse, and willing to give the other party a chance to get it right. If the other party is demonstrating that they can’t get it right either on jobs, spending, entitlements, and the rest, then voters are more than willing to throw them out. Democrats won’t have George W. Bush to kick around or a frantic, crotchety presidential campaign to run circles around. They will have to defend an agenda that is, at least for now, exceptionally unpopular — and an economic record that is utterly undistinguished. Republicans will seek to take their message nationally to voters who in 2008 were not willing to listen to anyone with an “R” by their name.

But what of the power of incumbency? Certainly incumbent governors and senators have the advantage of name recognition, plenty of free media, and the power to sprinkle goodies in key districts. A community center here and a bike path there, they figure, will endear voters to the bearer of the pork. But just as 2006 and 2008 were “throw the bums out” elections, 2010 may be yet another year in which incumbency is a burden, not an asset. If it’s not corruption issues (Chris Dodd) or high unemployment (Ted Strickland), it is the burden of identification with the ultra-liberal president and Congress which candidates like Sens. Mary Landrieu and Blanche Lincoln will have to manage.

But Republicans would be foolish to think that they have a lock on 2010. Just as Democrats over-estimated the staying power of their 2008 gains, Republicans may not solidify the gains they have made or hold their position in the polls. The White House and Congress may shift gears and get off the lefty legislation binge. Unemployment may drift downward. The Democrats fumbled the ball this year by overestimating the public’s tolerance for big-government power grabs. But there is another year before the votes are cast. Republicans should know better than anyone how quickly the political landscape can change.

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