Somehow, I don’t think this helps Gov. Charlie Crist:
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that despite being attacked from the right by former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, his rival in the state’s GOP Senate primary, he is no “RINO.” Asked during an interview with CBS’s “Early Show” for his response to critics who have called him a “Republican in name only” — better known by the acronym RINO — Crist said “if I’m a RINO, then so is Ronald Reagan.”
Ouch. This is the equivalent of Obama’s “I am not an ideologue” pronouncement. It’s the sort of cringing denial that comes only when many voters think the accusation is true. Crist then said that he, too, was in favor of “less taxing, less spending, less government, more freedom,” but was just more “pragmatic” than Marco Rubio. He opined that the voters “don’t want bickering and some ideologue on one end or the other to sort of be a standard bearer.” Hmm. I think conservative voters actually do want a standard bearer.
You get the sense that it’s just not clicking for Crist. He is not the rock star of the conservatives and is trying to tell Republicans in a primary race that they are wrong to want a rock star. But they do, and voters generally don’t want to be told they’ve got it all wrong. Moreover, what got Crist in trouble in the first place was his preference for accommodating and embracing (literally) Obama, rather than staunchly opposing him. Signaling that he is “pragmatic” is not what voters (either in the primary or general election) in a wave opposition election want to hear. They want someone to stop the governing party from doing more destructive things.
Perhaps Crist will figure this out, but it may not be the right moment for him. Sometimes the voters just want what the voters want.