Carlos Lopez-Cantera Fits Running Mate Role: Hitting Crist and Helping Scott
Around the State
Lopez-Cantera handled the point position for Republicans on Monday when former Gov. Charlie Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott despite spending most of his political life with the GOP, spoke at the Forum Club of Palm Beaches.
In his moment in the spotlight, rare for a lieutenant governor, Lopez-Cantera made the most of it, launching an attack on Crist that got to the core of the Republican case againt the former governor.
"I feel like I'm watching a bad political movie,” said Lopez-Cantera on Monday after Crist’s speech. “Charlie has become the unpleasant stereotype of a politician willing to say anything, do anything to further ambitions. When the state was in really bad shape, he didn't care about leadership. He left to pursue his own ambition.”
By going after his opponent, Lopez-Cantera is just the latest in a series of running mates throughout American political history whose chief campaign responsibilities include serving as an attack dog.
It’s the traditional role assigned to vice presidential and lieutenant governor candidates, no matter which politician is on the ticket. In his first national campaign back in 1900, Theodore Roosevelt, running as William McKinley’s vice presidential candidate, focused on lashing out at Democratic challenger William Jennings Bryan. More than a decade before he sat in the White House, FDR made his national political debut in 1920 as James Cox’s running mate. As Cox’s understudy, FDR spent most of his focus hitting the Republican ticket of Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Some running mates -- Barry Goldwater’s choice of Bill Miller in 1964 comes to mind -- seem to be added to the ticket just because they’re political pitbulls.
Lopez-Cantera is also helping Scott out by filling another role traditionally assigned to the junior member of the ticket: trying to rally the base. In recent weeks, Lopez-Cantera has been hitting the circuit for Scott, appearing at county GOP events, looking to keep Republicans from defecting to their former standard bearer. It’s a task Lopez-Cantera is well suited for. During his time in the Florida House, Lopez-Cantera eventually rose to the post of Republican leader. It’s fair to say he understands how to reach out to his fellow Republicans.
Crist will have his own calculations to make as he chooses a running mate. Whoever ends up as Crist’s partner on the ticket will, of course, pound away at Scott. But, having spent decades as a Republican and only a year and a half as a Democrat, Crist is going to need someone to reassure his new party’s base. In the meantime, Lopez-Cantera and Scott can double team Crist for the moment even as other Democrats help out the former governor on occasion.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.