Marco Rubio, Charlie Crist, and The Race for Florida’s Senate Seat

When Florida Senator Mel Martinez announced he was stepping down from his post last August, current Governor Charlie Crist fairly quickly announced he would not seek reelection to that office and instead run for Martinez’s seat. Crist is a long-time political figure in Florida and has generally been viewed favorably by Floridians (the recession has hurt his approval numbers more recently). He was considered a lock to win the seat at the time. Along comes Marco Rubio riding a backlash of conservatism after Barack Obama is elected, and just a few months ago Governor Crist had to switch from Republican to Independent because it was clear Rubio would win the GOP primary.

So now you have the back story in case you were unfamiliar with the situation. Enter: this article. A great read from Adam Smith that really raises some interesting points. Most poignant, has Charlie Crist, in effect, benefited from the Gulf oil spill? And is Marco Rubio starting to lose momentum because he doesn’t have a primary opponent or is it because Floridians are beginning to learn more about him and his questionable history?First, Governor Crist, as a Governor of a Gulf state and one which has been affected by the oil spill, has gotten a lot of publicity and attention since the disaster began. And it hasn’t been the negative type. Interestingly enough, the oil spill has kind of provided a showcase for Crist to demonstrate to Floridians his leadership and his dedication to the state’s residents. Crist has been incredibly quick to act, and in my opinion, has struck exactly the right chords every time. Within days of the spill he comes out publicly promising to do whatever necessary to protect Florida’s coast and its businesses which would be affected. This was before anybody even knew for sure if Florida would see any of the oil, although the fishing industry certainly would have been in trouble. I really think this has helped Florida in its preparedness for when oil has come ashore. And let’s face it, so far it is a relatively small part of Florida being affected right now. So while this huge disaster fresh in people’s minds rages on, he looks damn good and maybe in small part because it’s only been a fraction of the coast which needed help so far.

Second, Marco Rubio seems to have lost some steam. He is behind in the polls to Crist, although that isn’t necessarily a huge surprise. More surprising is that Rubio seemed almost unstoppable a handful of months ago charging out of nowhere to crush Crist in a GOP primary (if it had taken place). One thought is that maybe his campaign has lost the fire…they set out to topple a sitting Governor and did that, but now what? Another problem is that now he is trying to win votes from the general electorate and not above average conservatives who were likely to vote for him. His tea party rhetoric and platform doesn’t seem to be appealing to many additional Floridians. I think there maybe (hopefully) is a third thing in play here and that is Rubio is finally becoming known to Florida voters. Are voters finally discovering that the ultra fiscal conservative ran up huge bills on GOP credit card among a number of other financial missteps throughout his political career including this campaign? Are they now aware that he was basically handpicked successor as Speaker of the Florida House by a man who has been charged with using his office for illegal dealings (Ray Sansom)?

Whatever the case may be, I am thrilled to see Governor Crist seemingly finishing strong in this campaign. I think Crist is by far the best candidate in the race, for Florida and for the US. So what if it took a party switch and maybe a huge oil spill, it’s not like the spill is his fault. He’s done a great job in handling it for Florida and staying visible while doing so. It seems as if his new campaign staff who isn’t afraid of ruining their careers may get rewarded for their faith in him. Really, if you think about it…Crist is doing now what he should have been doing all along. As the sitting Governor he has the ability to stay in the public eye like he has, but prior to the oil spill it just didn’t happen. Thank goodness it has, whatever the reason.

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