Charlie Crist Won Democrat Hearts But Other Voters Aren't Swooning

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: August 25, 2014 3:55 AM
Charlie Crist

Charlie Crist

After barely a year and a half as a Democrat, Charlie Crist has secured his standing with his new party. 

Crist will easily rout Nan Rich in the Democratic primary on Tuesday and his allies have their hands on the controls of the party machinery. That was pretty clear in the primary as Allison Tant, who Crist backed to be party chairwoman, went out of her way to ignore Rich and ensure there was no debate between the two Democrats running for governor.

Tant dropped any pretense of neutrality when the Florida Democratic Party, and not the Crist campaign, went after Tom Lee’s group for using old Crist quotes in robocalls. Crist’s reliance on the party machinery was even more evident when Annette Taddeo, a party boss who has never won electoral office, became his running mate.

Rich never turned into much of a factor in the race. She had problems with fundraising and, despite being in the race for the better part of two and a half years, remained largely unknown to most of the Democrat electorate despite her time in Tallahassee.

One problem Rich ran into was she always took a back seat as Democrats pondered who should run against Rick Scott. Besides Crist, there was buzz for the likes of Alex Sink, Bob Graham, Bill Nelson, Dan Gelber and other potential hopefuls, all of whom, for whatever reason, overshadowed Rich.

Crist’s efforts to win the Democratic base have born fruit. Part of that comes from desperation to beat Rick Scott and win their first gubernatorial election in two decades. Crist, of course, has gone out of his way to reassure Democrats that he has abandoned the positions on abortion, school choice, crime, gun control and other matters which propelled him to three state offices as a Republican and almost took him to the Republican ticket back in 2008 as John McCain’s running mate.

But Crist has also done a thorough job of winning Democrats over to him. He has reached out to the party base and, while some liberals might vote for Rich over him on Tuesday, he should be able to count on the party activists come November. Crist might not have taken the most principled of routes to lead the Florida Democrats but it has been effective in winning over his new party.

As he gets ready to head into the general election, Crist will have to switch his focus away from wooing Democrats to making a play for independents. No doubt about it, Crist has some tough assignments ahead. Crist backers assumed he would take a major slice of the Republican base away from Scott. But that hasn’t happened. Republicans haven’t forgiven Crist for abandoning the GOP and cheerleading for Barack Obama. Crist will be hard-pressed to make off with a significant part of the Republican base.

Scott is also beating Crist with independents in the polls and that’s where the new Democrat will have to focus. But the problem there is Scott has been on the attack early and often, turning voters away from Crist. Even worse, Crist doesn’t have much of a legacy in any of the three statewide offices he’s held to point out, probably because as soon as he won one office he was off and running for yet another.

Crist has done a fine job of winning the Democratic base and he should easily prevail over Rich on Tuesday. But while that was happening, independents moved away from Crist. All of his political transformations come with a price and voters are increasingly seeing Crist as trying to be all things to all men with nothing under it all besides a burning ambition for his own advancement.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

Comments (11)

1:34PM AUG 25TH 2014
Democrats are foolish, spineless and hopeless if they nominate Charlie Crist. While he makes most FL Repubs' blood pressure rise (even higher than it already is), they must be laughing about Dems voting for a former Republican to represent them in Nov.

Nan Rich is the answer.
Flim Flam Man
12:22PM AUG 25TH 2014
Charlie would turn on the Democrats as fast as he turned on the Republicans if it served his purpose.
Why didn't he just change his party affiliation when he was Governor and let the votes decide if he deserved to be reelected.
11:44AM AUG 25TH 2014
Let's not be fooled by Crist or Scott. Support & vote for Adrian Wyllie.
Rebecca Sharp
9:45AM AUG 25TH 2014
Well again no mention of Adrian Wyllie! Sorry Ass Charlie has it sewn up before the votes are counted. Nan Rich, life long Democrat gets kicked to the curb by her own party for a traitor Republican and lying, cheating, flip-flopping, fake everything (wife/tan) greedy O'vomit loving idiot. My hope is Nan Rich tells "her Party" to cram it where the sun don't shine, and switch to Independent or a Minor Party in the event she losses this Primary! She is much more qualified in so may ways, dignified, intelligent, seasoned, "rich" with ideas and brings much to the table! Both the Republican and Democratic MACHINES need to be dismantled! There is always the hint that the "machines" will be manipulated by the Parties Pick to win! You expect people to feel their VOTE counts when you write such dribble? "and his allies have their hands on the controls of the party machinery." Makes ya wonder why anyone would run, just call the Party Machine and ask which person it wants in, call that person and tell them and stop all the BULL[filtered word], waste of money, time and energy. Especially since you are telling us who has won before the VOTES are counted! Vote Adrian Wyllie in November and show the world the MACHINES are all broken and the PEOPLE say their VOTES COUNT and it is their PICK who gets elected!!
10:02AM AUG 25TH 2014
Well, the big money machine Dem's pick doesn't always win. Look what happened to hand-picked Dem. Alex Sink who in March was trounced by a low budget Rep. David Jolly. Now that made my day!
Donna Cay Tharpe
9:03AM AUG 25TH 2014
Most Democrats are fools. Charlie has worn so many disguises and reinvented himself so often, that voting for him is like driving a car in the dark. Not me! I voted for Nan Rich--the REAL Democrat in this race.
The Swampfox
8:51AM AUG 25TH 2014
Crist is a good candidate if there were only democrats voting but the reality is as the writer alludes, Charlie was too busy jumping from one office to another, changing parties all for his own personal gain and not one once of concern for Florida. It seems to me a similar politician did the same thing and faked his way into the White House...'AND LOOK WHAT WE GOT!" The same ersatz president that Christ has snuggled up to???? I believe Florida voters are too smart to fall for the same story different politician routine again. If Florida is going to be a swing state then lets swing in the right direction for the state and our country! E Pluribus Unum.
Ken Willey
8:27AM AUG 25TH 2014
Why would Democrats believe Crist has changed anything more than his party? Tant and the Democrat establishment are counting on voters to fall into line and vote for whoever the party puts on their ballot.

Scott and the Republicans aren't any better. The budget has gone up by $11 billion, Scott supports Common Core, Medicaid expansion, and his immigration stance is at odds with most of the Republican voters.

The two parties only represent their own leadership.
Kathleen McCook
8:11AM AUG 25TH 2014
Hillsborough Democrat voting for grassroots (not Tant) choice--NAN RICH.
8:03AM AUG 25TH 2014
If fleephlopper campaigner-for-life Crist is the best the Dem's have to offer, then YAY for us in November!
6:32AM AUG 25TH 2014
I think this is somewhat accurate, however I think more credit was given to Crust than he deserves. He may have won over the elite and party leaders, but the peoples' voice has been squashed, most of them hurting from Obamacare, skyrocketing health insurance costs, being turned away from doctors and hospitals, etc. Florida's Senior population is huge in comparison to most states and Seniors vote in droves. Crist will win the primary but be nothing more than a speed-bump in the road to Rick Scott's second term as governor. My prediction for November will be 54-46 big win for Scott.

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