Tom Lee has become one of the main Republicans attacking Charlie Crist as he looks to return to leading the Florida Senate.
This week, robocalls went out from The Conservatives, a group with ties to Lee. The robocalls went out across Florida and featured Crist espousing conservative positions from his various bids for office back when he was a Republican. But, as Crist is now a Democrat, his past statements and positions could come back to haunt him, though he should easily cruise over Nan Rich in the primary later this month.
Lee made no secret that his group was behind the robocalls and they were only the tip of the iceberg. The Conservatives also had an entire website with a collection of clips with Crists conservative comments on a range of issues and photos of the new Democrat with the likes of George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin.
By going after Crist, Lee hopes to show he remains a force in Florida politics. Theres a temptation to write Lee off as a has-been after his Senate presidency and his loss to Alex Sink back in 2006. Lee bounced back to some extent in 2012, impressively beating Rachel Burgin in the Republican primary but he didnt exactly set the world on fire in the general election, beating Democrat Elizabeth Belcher by only 8 percent to head back to Tallahassee.
Lee has floated his name as Senate president candidate to lead the chamber after the 2020 elections. But, despite his past tenure in charge of the Senate, Lee is drawing opposition, namely from Wilton Simpson and Bill Galvano.
His past glories aside, Lee is still a factor though he has not come close in sealing up another term as Senate president. While he has been a familiar figure in Tallahassee for almost 20 years now, Lee is only 52. Despite the loss to Sink, Lee is correct in thinking hes not done yet. He will still be a factor in Tallahassee for years to come, even if he doesnt reclaim the Senate presidency.
With his attacks on Crist, Lee has inserted himself back into the political dialogue. Lee has also opened up a pretty impressive line of attack against Crist. Even with his economic record, party switches and flips on every major issue, Crist is much more charming and charismatic than Rick Scott. That will be on display when the candidates are paired together in the months to come.
But Crist can easily be depicted as a candidate who will say anything and then reverse himself to get elected. Lees robocalls and website effectively show that Crist is more driven by his own ambition than by anything resembling basic principles. Itll be interesting to see what more Lee and his group do as they look to undermine Crists base and drive independents away from him.
At the very least, Lees attacks on Crist will draw Republican cheers for the once and possible future Senate president. Eight years after losing to Sink, Tom Lee is showing he remains a force in Florida.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.