Commentary Magazine


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.

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