Unlike Crist, Graham Shows Dems Importance of Playing to the Center

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: June 17, 2014 3:55 AM
Charlie Crist and Gwen Graham

Charlie Crist and Gwen Graham

Two Democrats were in the Tallahassee limelight on Monday even as their political paths were heading in different directions. 

Newly minted Democrat Charlie Crist came to Tallahassee to make nice with teachers, holding a round-table event with them. Crist listened to teachers complain they don’t make enough and that rewarding good teachers with increased pay was unacceptable. The new Democrat agreed and stressed he cared more about teachers than Rick Scott does. Crist spent a great deal of time talking about what teachers need, including higher salaries, but didn’t seem as concerned about the students.

But if Crist scored more points with the teachers' union on Monday, he probably didn’t help his poll numbers which have dropped in recent months with the latest round of polls showing a close contest. The teachers' union’s grip on Florida Democrats has grown in recent years as the party’s influence at the state level has decreased. Very few Democrats in the Legislature would break with the teachers' union on merit pay and other issues.

But Floridians apparently don’t buy into the idea that education should be focused on the teachers instead of the students. The Florida Democrats don’t currently hold a state Cabinet office and haven’t won a gubernatorial election in 20 years. In the Legislature, the Democrats can barely keep Republicans from holding a veto-proof majority. With qualifying now here, Democrats are scrambling to find candidates to run for two state Cabinet offices. The Florida Democrats haven’t sold their soul to the teachers' union -- but the FEA, along with the trial lawyers, has a good claim to a mortgage on it.

Crist needs to win over his new party. But playing to the teachers' union won’t help him bounce back in the polls, though it will provide him some manpower for the campaign.

As Crist offered the same old, same old, congressional candidate Gwen Graham released her first television commercial. Despite being the daughter of Bob Graham and working as an aide to John Kerry and Howard Dean, Graham’s new ad stresses she’s a political outsider who can bring new perspectives and values -- “the North Florida way” -- to Congress.

Whatever the merits of Graham’s ad and its claims, at least she’s trying to compete with Steve Southerland for independent voters. Graham recognizes that voters are sick of politics -- and politicians -- as usual. It’s a message that’s resonating in Florida. Southerland used it to beat Allen Boyd in 2010. The same year, political-outsider Scott defeated career politicians Alex Sink and Bill McCollum. All over Florida, candidates have come out of nowhere insisting they’re not career politicians and it’s worked. Just ask Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Patrick Murphy, Trey Radel and Ted Yoho.

Graham gets something that Crist hasn’t grasped. Voters with no party affiliation are growing in Florida and their frustration with politics has led them away from the two major parties. Crist could take a page from Graham’s gamebook and try to keep his focus in the center. The more Crist plays to the Democrat base -- even as primary rival Nan Rich has proven to be a minor irritant -- the more his poll numbers tank.

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

Comments (15)

Rick S.
10:37PM SEP 23RD 2014
Snowball's chance in Hell electing a dumbocrat in these counties.
12:45PM AUG 7TH 2014
Exactly Mr. Henderson - PLAYING to the Center, but only playing. Liberals for keepsies!
11:09AM AUG 7TH 2014
Howard Dean is a tag on here. Is he even still around ?
11:00AM AUG 7TH 2014
Claiming to be in the CENTER is what ALL liberals do to get elected, then, it Marxist Central after that !! CANNOT BELIEVE Graham is strongly connected to Pelosi !! What a scam. Moderate my ayes!!!
7:38AM JUN 18TH 2014
Unlike Crist, Gwen hasn't done a thing in politics. She can't point to one accomplishment. I don't know where the writer for this story has the idea that Gwen Grahm has done anything of any significance other living off her daddy's name.
9:21AM JUN 17TH 2014
Charlie tried so hard to convince everyone that he was the most conservative guy in the senate race in 2010. He got his butt kicked. So, now he's making a comeback, trying to convince evryone that he's a true liberal and has seen the light. Total BS. Crist is nothing more than a career politician who made a huge mistake when he bailed on the people of Florida during one of our most difficult times. And, he did it to satisfy his political ambition. Get lost, Charlie.
1:01PM AUG 7TH 2014
You nailed it !!!
C Breeze
9:05AM JUN 17TH 2014
If you believe that Gwen Graham is an "outsider",...then I've got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. That phony "outsider" nonsense is the very flawed reason America has had to contend with Hillary for far, far too long, not to mention the politically pervasive nepotism that has infected American politics whenever everybody is too distracted to do even a tiny bit of research.... "Stay Out Of The Bushes" folks !
C Breeze
8:26AM JUN 17TH 2014
After you "boil it all down", it becomes ever more evident that Democrats have brought all of America all the way down to the level in which it now sadly finds itself ; any more decades like the last six, and Americans will have lost their Republic, just as planned and dreamed of by Alinsky and his communist acolytes.
All Aboard!
12:13PM JUN 17TH 2014
But, like a real cook does "After you "boil it all down"" you take your skimmer and and skim the scum off the top and what will you find......

You will find Jeb Bush and his compassionate, aggressive fake conservatives waiting to come right in and take over. All aboard! we're going for a little ride..... a train ride that is!
Tom Bryson
7:39AM JUN 17TH 2014
Your timely comparison of these two candidates makes an excellent point.
The students can't vote, teachers can. Charlie is an empty vessel ready to do or say whatever is necessary to satisfy his narcissism. His change of parties was a matter of necessity rather than conviction. Gwen Graham, on the other hand, is dedicated to public service.
11:03AM AUG 7TH 2014
Hahahahaha ! Really? Not Pelosi CONTROL of the House? You have been duped again.
6:51AM JUN 17TH 2014
Yeah. Republicans focus on the students.
Not so mmuc, Republicans focus on enriching their buds in the charter school and testing biz.
Students and teachers be damned.
10:49AM JUN 17TH 2014
"The [Florida] budget contains $480 million for teacher pay raises of $2,500 for good-performing teachers and $3,500 for those rated superior."

11:06AM AUG 7TH 2014
Michael just started blogging for the first time. Stop being mean with the facts please.

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