A Charlie and Nan Debate? See Charlie Run
Around the State
I dare Charlie Crist to debate Nan Rich. No, I double-dare him.
Not that I think a debate between these two is ever going to happen. Charlie would be shaking in his patent leathers -- he doesn't have the spine for it. But isn't the thought pure sweetness?
One on one with Nan, Charlie Crist knows as a Democrat he would lose any debate on any stage -- lose like Houston lost Enron, like the Broncos lost to the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIV, like Wylie Coyote loses to Road Runner every time.
I see Charlie spending the next seven months impersonating the cartoon character in "Where's Waldo?" -- leaping off of billboards, jabbing at Rick Scott from a TV screen, then hopping into hiding like Waldo -- where'd he go? -- pretending Nan doesn't exist.
A lot of Democrats tell me this "for the people" candidate who changes his message as often as he changes his tie needs to put himself on the record with his new party's faithful.
So, if Democrats want to nail him down and assess what he's got against solid competition, an intraparty debate with a real Democrat isn't a bad way to go. But they'll have to find Charlie first.
Charlie could charm a hungry buzzard off a dead possum. But in a Democratic arena, I'm thinking charm is where his debate pluses end.
Until 2010, Charlie, now 58, was a member of the red team. In fact, he held the very office as a Republican he now runs for as a Democrat. Then he turned independent that year to run for Senate -- which he lost -- and turned Democrat two years later. That makes his platform, well ... tricky, if not downright messy.
Nan, meanwhile, now 71, was the Senate minority leader from 2010 to 2012, when she was term-limited out and couldn't run anymore. She was known as one of the most liberal voices in the Senate and a tireless advocate for minorities, children and the poor. Even in the House from 2000 to 2004 -- outnumbered as she was later in the upper chamber -- she was very much a Democrat's Democrat. She knows who she is, what she stands for and has a reputation as a fighter and a merchant of honesty.
Allow me to help you check out the lemons souring Charlie Crist's campaign as a Democrat -- some of his long-held positions as a Republican. Imagine how they'll go over with Democrats, and picture Charlie in a debate on these issues with unwavering Nan Rich:
Education lemon: Next to Jeb Bush, Charlie was one of the biggest proponents of using public dollars to pay for private school vouchers.
Taxes lemon: For years, Charlie was all over the Democrats because they wanted to eliminate tax breaks to produce more revenue.
Second Amendment lemon: Charlie has consistently, consistently opposed gun control measures.
Crime lemon: You don't call yourself "Chain Gang Charlie," and then profess to espouse prison reform. Nan is likely to remind debate viewers of that. And the fact that Charlie once advocated for reinstating prisoner chain gangs -- plus, he sponsored a law requiring prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences.
Gay rights lemon: Equality is a biggie with Nan and fellow liberals. Watch her climb all over Charlie for previously supporting a ban on same-sex marriage and when running for governor in 2006 opposing gay parents' right to adopt children.
Environment lemon: Crist signed a bill in 2009 that environmentalists said would gut growth management and in 2008 he dropped his opposition to offshore drilling.
Charm? Yes, he's got that. But I haven't even touched on Charlie as a weak governor who oversaw soaring unemployment, or that he marched the state into debt, or that his actual days on the job were questionable at best, or his Big Dreams of What Could Be Next in his own career would distract him from the people of Florida's business. Will it all happen again?
Nan has more ammunition than she can float ashore on a pontoon.
Does she want to meet Charlie in a formal debate? You bet she does. In December Broward civic leaders offered to host a Democratic gubernatorial primary debate at Broward College’s Bailey Concert Hall on the Davie campus. Nan's response was, bring on 10 debates. Charlie's was ... silence. Of course.
Florida Democrats who spent the last two years deliberately ignoring Nan Rich and only want a governor with a "D" after his name, apparently don't give a hoot about a debate in the primary. But real Democrats -- committed progressives who know Nan Rich's work, who want a governor they can trust to embrace their principles, are eager to have at least one -- preferably a series of debates -- before the gubernatorial primary.
They don't know who Charlie Crist is. And, frankly, they may never know. But at least with a debate they can see and hear their party's two candidates side by side and maybe have some hope of trusting their own judgment.
If Charlie does show, I repeat what I said up top -- I think Nan Rich will roll him over and crush him like cayenne pepper in a kitchen grinder. Charlie, I dare you to prove me wrong.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.