Charlie Crist Makes it Easy for Republicans to Link Him to Obama
Around the State
Crist told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday that he hopes Obama will campaign with him against Rick Scott. Of course with a primary next week against Nan Rich, saying that should only help Crist who has been a Democrat for barely a year and a half after years as a Republican.
Polls continually show Obama remains popular with Florida Democrats and he did carry the state twice. But polls also show other voters have turned away from him. Most Republicans have been against Obama since 2008 but independents are shifting away from him even if they are not fully on board with Republican efforts against him.
Obama’s not exactly an asset on the campaign trail and it helps explain why he was conspicuously absent from Alex Sink’s efforts to win an open congressional seat in a special election earlier this year. But now Crist is saying he wants Obama to campaign with him in Florida.
Republicans will relish the opportunity to follow Marco Rubio’s game plan from 2010. Rubio used Crist’s support of the Obama stimulus to catch him in the Republican Senate primary, eventually chasing him out of the GOP. Republicans are generally more likely than Democrats to come out in off-year elections which helps explain why 2010 was so bad for Obama and his allies. With independents suffering from Obama fatigue, Scott and his camp hope to reap the same results come November.
Still, Crist has reasons to say he would campaign with Obama. Crist should beat Rich next week but a strong showing from her will raise questions as to how much support he has from liberals and stalwart Democrats. Tying himself to Obama should help Crist reassure Democrats that, despite making two changes in party affiliation in recent years and having spent most of his time on the campaign trail as a conservative Republican, he is one of them.
But this will come back to hurt him. Republicans are salivating at the possibility of linking Crist to unpopular Democrats in Washington and the former governor just gave them enough material to do exactly that. Republicans want to keep Scott out of the picture as much as possible. Some of the governor’s most recent commercials don’t even feature him. Scott’s also nowhere near as charismatic and personable as Crist. But by saying he will campaign with Obama, Crist is setting himself up to be linked more and more to the increasingly unpopular president.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.