Ever since the former Republican announced he was running for governor again as a Democrat, Republicans all across Florida have been coming out of the woodwork to bash Charlie Crist.
One of the most vocal Republicans attacking Crist has been Jeff Miller. When Crist jumped in the race, the longtime Panhandle congressman was one of the first Republicans to rip into him. At the end of last week, Miller took to the pages of the Pensacola News Journal, attacking Crist in personal terms and saying the former governor did nothing for Northwest Florida.
At first glance, Miller seems an odd choice to be the point man against Crist. Since being elected to Congress in 2001, Miller has risen up to chair the Veterans Affairs Committee which, while certainly a blessing for the Panhandle and constituents, is not exactly the best vehicle for partisanship. Nestled in Northwest Florida, Miller is unknown to most of the rest of the state despite his years in Congress.
But there is some logic in Miller leading the charge against Crist. Representing a strong Republican area, Miller should face little opposition in 2014 and can focus more attention on kneecapping Crist. While hes been in Congress since 2001, Miller has always had one foot in Tallahassee. He served in the Florida House and, back in the 1980s, was a close aide to legendary Agricultural Commissioner Doyle Conner. A former Democrat himself, Miller could help ensure old Southern Democrats who joined the GOP stay in Rick Scotts column instead of drifting back over to Crist. It certainly helps explain why Miller has focused on bashing Crists liberalism.
Only 54, Miller is set to be in Congress for years to come. But, if he ever does want to move up the political ladder, Miller could have his chance in 2018. Adam Putnam will be facing term limits as agriculture commissioner. If Miller wants to follow in Connors footsteps, he could have his chance in 2018.
Of course, if Miller wants to run for agriculture commissioner, he has to raise his profile with Republicans across the state. While his committee chairmanship is excellent for taking care of constituents in his district, its not a position that will lead to much time on cable news shows.
Miller has little to lose and much to gain by attacking Crist and, if he does look to return to Tallahassee in 2018, it gives him a chance to build early. Look for Miller to be one of the leading Republican attack dogs in 2014.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.