'Summer of Charlie Crist' a Political Box-Office Bomb
Around the State
Labor Day weekend is here and now we know the “summer of Charlie Crist” was a bigger box-office bomb than “The Lone Ranger.”
This summer, Florida politics was supposed to focus on Crist’s efforts to win Democrats over as he prepares to run again for governor. Back in May, pundits insisted Crist would be the story and this would be the "summer of Charlie Crist."
But Crist stayed off-stage most of the summer, though things should pick up in the months to come. He’ll continue to speak to Democratic groups in the fall and he’ll have a political memoir -- and perhaps a book tour -- coming out at the start of 2014. Crist was noticeably absent as protesters took over the Capitol to demand a special session to repeal the state’s Stand Your Ground law.
Crist dodged a few bullets this summer. Nan Rich continues to be a nonfactor in the gubernatorial race and Alex Sink has done nothing to indicate that she will run again. Despite some occasional media noise, Bill Nelson appears increasingly unlikely to run. If nothing else, Crist’s odds of avoiding a nasty Democratic primary are getting better by the day.
While Crist remained in the wings, Rick Scott was able to use his office this summer to continue to crawl back into the race. The economy keeps getting better and Scott hasn’t been shy about heralding the fact that Florida’s unemployment rate is below the national average. He also did a fine job of falling into a trap on Stand Your Ground. Polls show Floridians support the law and Scott had no problem taking on the likes of Jesse Jackson when they started insulting the Sunshine State and its residents.
Scott is also starting to engage Crist. Speaking at an event backed by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) in Orlando Friday, Scott bashed Crist’s fiscal management and reminded listeners that he backed Barack Obama’s stimulus plan. Scott also called for more tax cuts, hoping to ensure Florida doesn’t have a surplus at Floridians’ expense.
The governor is still an underdog to be sure but, as Florida’s economy continues to improve, so do Scott’s chances of winning a second term. There wasn’t much Crist could do to dominate the summer headlines. He doesn’t currently hold office and he’s still not officially in the race. Using the bully pulpit that comes from being governor, Scott took advantage of his opportunities on everything from Stand Your Ground to jobs.
It wasn’t the summer of Rick Scott by any means, but he made more political gains than Crist during the past few months.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.