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Tonight as the sun sets in Pensacola, Charlie Crist will be the Democratic nominee for Governor of Florida. Yes, there’s a kind of pro-forma primary going on between Charlie and the hapless State Senator Nan Rich, a grating South Florida liberal of the Bella Abzug stripe, but everyone knows it isn’t serious. Crist has been the de facto nominee for over a year, plodding along in his faux-shucks way.
In essence, it isn’t about Crist the candidate. It’s about the Democratic Party. It’s a window into the deep, desperate soul of a state party looking for a foothold back into power. They know Crist is lying to them, and they love it. They know he’s playing them for patsies, and they’re lined up around the block to kiss his manorexic backside.
You’ve never seen such abject fawning for a man they know is a pathological liar and weapons-grade weirdo. It’s not masochism; to Democrats it looks like cold, objective calculation. Don’t ever mistake them for a party that isn’t willing to make sweeping compromises to win. Crist speaks directly to the id of Florida’s Democratic voters: “Screw my record, character, or history, you wanna win don’t you?”
You may share the kind of visceral dislike of Crist with most Republicans, but you need to know that the risk of Charlie Crist reaches far beyond Florida, and offers an insight into an emerging behavior of national Democrats. While we chase perfection, they chase election. They demonstrably don’t care about character, and Crist is a perfect example of the moral vacancy of Democratic voters.
You’re thinking, “Meh. Florida’s crazy. So what if he wins? The GOP owns the Legislature.” Don’t count on it. Florida’s GOP majorities in the House and Senate have some admirable scrappers, and some will fight Crist until the last dog dies. But there’s already a Quisling Caucus in the State Senate quietly whispering that Charlie might not be so bad.
Next, Charlie is very much a road-test for limits of reinvention of future Democratic candidates, including the Damsel of Chappaqua. He transformed himself from far-right Reagan Republican to left-of-Obama liberal in a year and a half without missing a beat. There is no lie the man won’t tell, no promise he won’t make, and no deal he won’t cut to return to power. Hillary is watching, as are other Democrats, as Crist attempts to define history down.
Hillary will be all-in for Charlie this fall, because Governor Charlie Crist means a marked improvement in her chances of winning the White House. Some of Charlie’s team today elected Obama in 2008 and 2012. There’s a group of Republican operators who know how to win statewide races in Florida, and they beat us. Twice. (Granted, the first time was with a helpful knife in the back, from the ostensible Republican governor; you guessed it, Charlie.) They’ll move seamlessly from Crist to Her Majesty, taking the extant machinery from this race. He’ll be here to help flood her coffers with money, media hits, support and infrastructure. Crist will go with Hillary because he’ll get the obligatory stories about how he’s the next VP (“Hey, just honored to be considered”), and to earn a chit with the Clintons.
Expect Crist to wield his veto threat as a lever to extort Florida’s corporate community to fill the coffers of the hapless Florida Democratic Party in ways it hasn’t been filled in two decades. Crist will – if elected – have appointed every single member of the Florida Supreme Court by the end of his first term as a Democrat. By executive order, bureaucratic fiat, and just plain deal-making, he’ll turn Florida into a rah-rah participant in Obamacare, expand Medicaid, increase spending, tighten environmental regulations to the sticking point, and generally do his damnedest to turn us into one of the dying, bankrupt blue welfare states Democrats adore.
Governor Rick Scott’s team has pounded Crist with over $25 million in negative ads, and they’ve finally moved the needle. Scott’s outstanding economic record – and seriously, it’s phenomenal – should be a massive political asset, but against the soulless, shark-eyed sociopathic campaign demon that lives in Charlie Crist’s skin, Scott has only recently been able to open a lead. The sheer tonnage of TV against Crist may eventually triumph, and Scott’s numbers are moving – albeit slowly, in the right direction.
Either way, it’s going to be a paid media bloodletting, but the lesson isn’t just in the campaign it’s in seeing Crist as the exemplar of future Democrats; limitless ambition, a base that forgives even absurd historical revisionism, and a campaign powered by the Obama machine’s technology and organizing model. It’s not just Florida that should be nervous.