Commentary Magazine


Topic: incumbent governor

Crist’s Disastrous Career Move

It’s not a good sign for Charlie Crist when the discussion moves from “Can he win the GOP primary?” to “Is he really going to run as an independent?” But that’s where the discussion is moving as poll after poll shows Marco Rubio clobbering the incumbent governor in the Republican Senate primary. Stuart Rothenberg probably does Crist no favors by writing that he is so out to lunch he doesn’t see a coming defeat:

One insider said, Crist doesn’t yet believe that he will lose the Republican race.

“Charlie still doesn’t think he’s in trouble. He thinks this is just a phase in the race, and he and his people believe that with the stuff they have [on Rubio], they can turn it around.”

Though everyone acknowledges that the GOP primary is still almost five months away and that Crist has resources and ammunition to use against Rubio, Crist and his loyal supporters seem to be the only ones who believe that a comeback is realistic.

Veteran state observers note the trendlines of a long list of polls favor Rubio, and they comment that “nothing that Crist is throwing at Rubio is sticking,” an ominous sign for the governor.

Nor is it clear that Crist would do any better with the voters as an independent because polls show that Rubio would still win handily in a three-way race. Rothenberg notes:

Insiders seem to agree that a Crist Independent bid would damage the governor’s credibility and rob him of much of the Republican and Democratic support he currently has in hypothetical ballot tests, certainly putting him at great risk of a third-place finish.

Running as an Independent would confirm the line of attack that Crist’s critics have leveled at him — that he is an opportunist who will do or say anything that he needs to in order to further his personal goals. And that would peel Republican and Democratic supporters away from him quickly.

There seems to be no good option for Crist, who went from popular governor and rising star to a maligned insider and the object of derision by the conservative base. (You’d have to go back to McLean Stevenson’s ill-conceived decision to leave the cast of the M*A*S*H TV series to find a worse career move.) Politics is treacherous business, especially for those who lack a sense of the political environment and of their own limitations.

It’s not a good sign for Charlie Crist when the discussion moves from “Can he win the GOP primary?” to “Is he really going to run as an independent?” But that’s where the discussion is moving as poll after poll shows Marco Rubio clobbering the incumbent governor in the Republican Senate primary. Stuart Rothenberg probably does Crist no favors by writing that he is so out to lunch he doesn’t see a coming defeat:

One insider said, Crist doesn’t yet believe that he will lose the Republican race.

“Charlie still doesn’t think he’s in trouble. He thinks this is just a phase in the race, and he and his people believe that with the stuff they have [on Rubio], they can turn it around.”

Though everyone acknowledges that the GOP primary is still almost five months away and that Crist has resources and ammunition to use against Rubio, Crist and his loyal supporters seem to be the only ones who believe that a comeback is realistic.

Veteran state observers note the trendlines of a long list of polls favor Rubio, and they comment that “nothing that Crist is throwing at Rubio is sticking,” an ominous sign for the governor.

Nor is it clear that Crist would do any better with the voters as an independent because polls show that Rubio would still win handily in a three-way race. Rothenberg notes:

Insiders seem to agree that a Crist Independent bid would damage the governor’s credibility and rob him of much of the Republican and Democratic support he currently has in hypothetical ballot tests, certainly putting him at great risk of a third-place finish.

Running as an Independent would confirm the line of attack that Crist’s critics have leveled at him — that he is an opportunist who will do or say anything that he needs to in order to further his personal goals. And that would peel Republican and Democratic supporters away from him quickly.

There seems to be no good option for Crist, who went from popular governor and rising star to a maligned insider and the object of derision by the conservative base. (You’d have to go back to McLean Stevenson’s ill-conceived decision to leave the cast of the M*A*S*H TV series to find a worse career move.) Politics is treacherous business, especially for those who lack a sense of the political environment and of their own limitations.

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The Curse of Insiderism

Democrats shouldn’t feel too badly; they aren’t the only ones voters are less than enamored of these days. It seems that anyone from Washington running against anyone who isn’t is at a disadvantage. In the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, longtime senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was thought to be a tough challenger for the incumbent governor, Rick Perry. After all, she’s a solid conservative, has served her state well, and is a practiced campaigner. But this year, that’s not enough:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison offered what appeared to be her first acknowledgment that Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry has done some damage to her bid to unseat him by successfully casting her as a Washington insider. … “It definitely has made it more difficult for me. I didn’t think that people would buy that because I’ve been so effective for Texas,” Hutchison told the AP on her campaign bus. “I didn’t think that anyone could turn my success in producing results for Texas into a negative, but I think that he has attempted to do that and that is what I’ve been having to fight against.”

It turns out that all that fighting for dollars to send back home and a track record inside the Beltway are liabilities these days. “Perry seems to be riding a national wave of frustration directed at Washington politicians — the same anger that has fueled the ‘tea party’ movement and complicated Democrats’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The long-serving governor who has campaigned as populist has repeatedly criticized Hutchison for pushing earmarks and voting for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.”

Now keep in mind that Perry isn’t a political novice. He’s the sitting governor, and he’s been there for 10 years. But he hasn’t been in Washington like Hutchison, which now seems to be the cause of much of voters’ anger. Perhaps this is a welcome rebalancing between the states and the federal government. Some healthy aversion to one-size-fits-all legislation and ill-conceived Washington pork-barrel projects is a good thing, most conservatives would argue.

But for those running for office at the national level, the message is clear. Unless a candidate can posit himself as an outsider and someone not inclined to go along with the status quo (think Charlie Crist), it’s a tough political environment. And for those whose record is one of down-the-line support for the Obama agenda (recall that poor Hutchison opposed most of Obamaism and still can’t catch a break), it may just be the right moment to “spend more time with the family.”

Democrats shouldn’t feel too badly; they aren’t the only ones voters are less than enamored of these days. It seems that anyone from Washington running against anyone who isn’t is at a disadvantage. In the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary, longtime senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was thought to be a tough challenger for the incumbent governor, Rick Perry. After all, she’s a solid conservative, has served her state well, and is a practiced campaigner. But this year, that’s not enough:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison offered what appeared to be her first acknowledgment that Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry has done some damage to her bid to unseat him by successfully casting her as a Washington insider. … “It definitely has made it more difficult for me. I didn’t think that people would buy that because I’ve been so effective for Texas,” Hutchison told the AP on her campaign bus. “I didn’t think that anyone could turn my success in producing results for Texas into a negative, but I think that he has attempted to do that and that is what I’ve been having to fight against.”

It turns out that all that fighting for dollars to send back home and a track record inside the Beltway are liabilities these days. “Perry seems to be riding a national wave of frustration directed at Washington politicians — the same anger that has fueled the ‘tea party’ movement and complicated Democrats’ plans to overhaul the nation’s health care system. The long-serving governor who has campaigned as populist has repeatedly criticized Hutchison for pushing earmarks and voting for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.”

Now keep in mind that Perry isn’t a political novice. He’s the sitting governor, and he’s been there for 10 years. But he hasn’t been in Washington like Hutchison, which now seems to be the cause of much of voters’ anger. Perhaps this is a welcome rebalancing between the states and the federal government. Some healthy aversion to one-size-fits-all legislation and ill-conceived Washington pork-barrel projects is a good thing, most conservatives would argue.

But for those running for office at the national level, the message is clear. Unless a candidate can posit himself as an outsider and someone not inclined to go along with the status quo (think Charlie Crist), it’s a tough political environment. And for those whose record is one of down-the-line support for the Obama agenda (recall that poor Hutchison opposed most of Obamaism and still can’t catch a break), it may just be the right moment to “spend more time with the family.”

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Democrats at Risk

Jonathan Martin reports:

A tactic that would have seemed far-fetched a year ago, when the new president was sworn in with a 67 percent job approval rating, is now emerging as a key component of the GOP strategy: Tie Democratic opponents to Obama and make them answer for some of the unpopular policies associated with the chief executive.

This is, of course, the mirror image of what occurred in 2006, when Democrats ran against George W. Bush. Martin adds: “The challenge will be to link Democrats with the administration on such issues as spending, bailouts, healthcare and cap-and-trade while not personally attacking Obama, who remains personally well-liked even as his standing erodes.” It’s not much of a challenge, really; all Republicans need to do is look at the campaigns of Bob McDonnell and Scott Brown, who ran against Obama policies but made no personal attacks on the president.

Frankly, in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, Obama showed himself not much of an aid in motivating his own troops. The Left has become peeved with the underachieving president, who has been unable to deliver much of consequence on their policy wish list. So it’s not surprising that Republicans are starting to cheer Obama appearances in their state.  Martin explains of Colorado and Wisconsin, two states previously thought to be securely Democratic:

It was [in Colorado] where Democrats enjoyed resurgence in recent years, resulting in scores of stories about the Rocky Mountain West turning, if not blue, at least purple. But now, with the appointed Bennet facing the threat of a primary and a tough GOP challenge, an incumbent governor whose numbers were so poor he couldn’t even run for re-election and at least two Democratic-held House seats potentially imperiled, those analyses look premature.

Republicans in the Badger State think two long-time Democrats could pay a price for backing much of Obama’s agenda.

“Democrats in Wisconsin like [Rep.] Dave Obey and [Sen.] Russ Feingold will be especially vulnerable because these two men have voluntarily marched off the cliff with Obama by not only supporting the president’s failed policies but fighting to pass them as well,” said state GOP Chairman Reince Priebus.

We’ll see how long Obama’s downward slide continues and whether unemployment remains high. If Obama doesn’t dash for the Center, and if the economy limps along for the remainder of the year, Colorado and Wisconsin will join a long list of states that are no longer definitely, no-questions-asked safe bets for the Democrats. In the Obama era, no seat is safe for the Democrats, it seems.

Jonathan Martin reports:

A tactic that would have seemed far-fetched a year ago, when the new president was sworn in with a 67 percent job approval rating, is now emerging as a key component of the GOP strategy: Tie Democratic opponents to Obama and make them answer for some of the unpopular policies associated with the chief executive.

This is, of course, the mirror image of what occurred in 2006, when Democrats ran against George W. Bush. Martin adds: “The challenge will be to link Democrats with the administration on such issues as spending, bailouts, healthcare and cap-and-trade while not personally attacking Obama, who remains personally well-liked even as his standing erodes.” It’s not much of a challenge, really; all Republicans need to do is look at the campaigns of Bob McDonnell and Scott Brown, who ran against Obama policies but made no personal attacks on the president.

Frankly, in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts, Obama showed himself not much of an aid in motivating his own troops. The Left has become peeved with the underachieving president, who has been unable to deliver much of consequence on their policy wish list. So it’s not surprising that Republicans are starting to cheer Obama appearances in their state.  Martin explains of Colorado and Wisconsin, two states previously thought to be securely Democratic:

It was [in Colorado] where Democrats enjoyed resurgence in recent years, resulting in scores of stories about the Rocky Mountain West turning, if not blue, at least purple. But now, with the appointed Bennet facing the threat of a primary and a tough GOP challenge, an incumbent governor whose numbers were so poor he couldn’t even run for re-election and at least two Democratic-held House seats potentially imperiled, those analyses look premature.

Republicans in the Badger State think two long-time Democrats could pay a price for backing much of Obama’s agenda.

“Democrats in Wisconsin like [Rep.] Dave Obey and [Sen.] Russ Feingold will be especially vulnerable because these two men have voluntarily marched off the cliff with Obama by not only supporting the president’s failed policies but fighting to pass them as well,” said state GOP Chairman Reince Priebus.

We’ll see how long Obama’s downward slide continues and whether unemployment remains high. If Obama doesn’t dash for the Center, and if the economy limps along for the remainder of the year, Colorado and Wisconsin will join a long list of states that are no longer definitely, no-questions-asked safe bets for the Democrats. In the Obama era, no seat is safe for the Democrats, it seems.

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