Made of Teflon?

13 01 2009

By Kartik Krishnaiyer

On Sunday morning the Miami Herald called Governor Charlie Crist the teflon governor.  The article characterized the governor as being very popular despite mixed success in office. What the article failed to address was that Crist’s predecessor Jeb Bush had equally high ratings while staking out clear conservative positions on the issues. Bush’s electoral performance has been more awe inspiring than that of Crist as well.

Charlie Crist had for years been underestimated by Democrats and Republicans alike. Called a lightweight by many a Tallahassee insider he defied the odds and won election after election. I personally warned Democrats in 2002 that it would be much easier to run against Locke Burt for Attorney General than Charlie Crist but was basically laughed out of the room. (I was working for George Sheldon, a candidate for the Democratic nomination at the time) I also told some Republicans in 2005 that Tom Gallagher shouldn’t bother running for Governor because he would be routed in the primary, which he was. Crist, I expect would be Governor and perhaps a US Senator or President of the United States before he was done in politics.

I had high expectations for Crist as Governor. After the ideological wars of the Bush administration, Florida needed a healing figure. But Florida also needed a thoughtful leader and Crist is neither thoughtful or capable of providing any real leadership.

However two years into his administration he has provided the state with the worst possible combination of pragmatism and conservatism. Crist is also less than decisive on the issues and at times seems genuinely over his head as Governor. Crist also seems less than capable of seizing the leadership of a battered national party (isn’t about time Florida provided a leader in one of the major parties, since after all we are the 4th largest state?) and his pick Jim Greer to head the state GOP has presided over diminishing Republican fortunes without the gusto and PR savvy Jeb Bush allies Tom Slade and Al Cardenes provided. Each of Bush’s allies who ran the GOP were formidable figures who could hold their own on the national level, contrasted with Greer who is hardly a notable statewide figure.

Governor Crist’s lack of ideology was a winning strategy for a quick climb as Commissioner of Education and then as Attorney General. But as Governor it has its limitations. The saving grace for Crist is likely to be the lack of a farm team for the Democrats.

Since the mid 1990s the Democrats have blatantly neglected their grassroots and county operations. I was part of a team in 2001 that pitched a proposal to the FDP to develop a “bench” for legislative and statewide races by investing money at the country level in candidate development and grassroots training. The response the party gave our group is that local DECs handle that. The problem is the local DECs often times are paper tigers that serve as glorified debating forums once a month.

The problems of the Democratic Party can be discussed another time, but the point is that Crist will likely be re-elected as Governor because the Democrats are unlikely to field a strong candidate. But that cannot avoid the reality of Crist’s tenure which thus far has been uneven and does not have him bringing any clarity to the debate on important issues.  Many two term Governors across the country are judged as failures, so simply getting re-elected does not guarantee a positive legacy.  Governor Crist still controls his own destiny but has not met the high expectations many Floridans had for him.

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5 responses

13 01 2009
GOP Operative

Yes we under estimated Crist in 2002 and 2006.

That’s why Burt, Warner and Gallagher all ran.

But now we are behind our governor and he will cruise to re-election.

13 01 2009
Demo Operative

I do not see the Gov. re-elected so easily. We have not even come close to the heat of a campaign. Let us pay attention to how this Everglades Land buy works out. Did anyone mention the state does not have enough money to pay for the bonds. We must also look at this ill fated deal with the Indians. This is just the beginning. The Gov. is thought as a RINO in his own party. Time will tell how this plays out.

14 01 2009
dccoulthard

Demo operative, the average voter doesn’t know anything about The Everglades or about most of the stuff that you mentioned. Campaigns are won and lost by name ID, image….basically similar to selling a leading brand of soap. This is especially the case in statewide elections, where it is all media, soundbites, and has nothing to do with the ‘issues’.

How else do people like Mel Martinez and Bill McCollum get elected.

I think at the local level it is different, but statewide it is all about image.

14 01 2009
Demo. Operative

Those folks got elected because the Demo. Party put up weak candidates who could not respond to Rep. Party attacks. We need to nominate people who are confortable with who they are and what they believe in. These other issues will become fodder for the media as time goes on. Right now it is not important what the voter thinks. Who the candidate is, is paramount. This individual must not be created in some back room but truly a person of the people. That is one lesson of the last election.

14 01 2009
dccoulthard

I don’t think the Democratic Party puts any thought into who there nominees are whatsoever.

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