FL-Sen: Conservative Backlash Brewing Against Crist?

An interesting and in-depth look from Tampa Bay Online:

Florida Republican Party circles are hearing increasing talk of conservative dissatisfaction with Gov. Charlie Crist and a possible primary challenge if he runs for the U.S. Senate next year.

Crist’s high poll ratings, which muted such criticism early in his term, remain high, pollsters say, but are no longer preventing the talk.

Some conservatives, never happy with Crist’s emphasis on racial diversity, environmental regulation and populist willingness to take on big business, are now saying it openly.

“It’s the kind of disappointment that’s going to have people looking in other directions for leaders,” said former state Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, now executive director of the Florida Christian Coalition. “The conservative movement needs a strong leader.”

The article confirms that the two most likely folks to take on Crist are former House speakers Marco Rubio and Alan Bense. While the poll numbers look daunting right now, I’d point out that long odds and self-defeating primaries are nothing new to the conservative movement. Incidentally, Pat Toomey had atrocious poll numbers just weeks before his 2004 primary with Arlen Specter; he lost by just two points and is now poised to spank Snarlin’ Arlen hard next year in their rematch. Oh, and Crist wouldn’t even be the incumbent. It’s doable.

Me, I’m like the dog:

56 thoughts on “FL-Sen: Conservative Backlash Brewing Against Crist?”

  1. I doubt Rubio will be able to beat Crist.  Maybe Vern Buchanan could, he’s pretty nutty.  The good thing about Florida (for us) is that it’s a closed primary state, if Crist starts tanking among the party faithful, that might be enough for an opponent to gain traction.

  2. Picture of Kay Bailey Hutchison, Arlen Specter, and Charlie Crist

    with the headline, GOPs Rejected Moderates.

  3. against Perry. Texas has open primaries so even though KBH isn’t a favorite of die hard conservatives she can still win by pulling in the moderate reps, democrats and independents. I’m not convinced Crist will make the jump. He’s very popular in Florida why go to DC to be 1/100?  

  4. hutchison, not hutchinson, and leech not leach.  sorry to be such an insufferable pedant, but these are common mistakes on lots of threads all bundled up in one here.

    shoo is the same word as in shoo-fly pie and referred to horses that were certain to win because the races had been rigged for them.

    whether are not these primaries are open only makes a little difference because the people who vote in primaries are generally party believers.  while hutchison is relatively sane by TX standards, i can’t think of how she could motivate moderates or democrats to come out to vote in a primary they never would otherwise without saying or doing something that would antagonize the majority of the GOP primary electorate.

    as for crist even if he won a tough contested primary, he might be damaged enough in a primary to either lose his base or lose moderates. so please jump into the dryer, marco, you’re a star!

  5. …turn into a discussion about Kay Bailey Hutchison and (gag) Carole Keeton Strayhorn?

    Anyway, a conservative-on-Crist primary could be the funnest spectacle of 2010. I hope it happens!

  6. For one thing, Crist’s approval ratings in Florida in astounding, and John Coryn is actively trying to recruit him into the Senate Race. If Crist did jump in, he would likely have the support of both the national and the Florida GOP.

    While some conservatives in Florida clearly don’t like how he supported Obama’s stimulus, Crist is no where near as liberal as Spectar, and in addition, any conservative challanger to Crist would be very weak compared to Toomey who is likely to run against Spectar. Rubio isn’t that prominent enough to credibly challange Crist and I don’t think there are any others Republicans who would be willing to take him out. Even if he did face a spirited challange, it’s unlikely it would hurt him. If Crist made it past the primary the GOP is not going to vote for the Democrat and they aren’t going to stay at home. And because Crist is overwhelming popular with indepedents and has some appeal to Democrats, he would almost certainly walk away with the Florida Senate seat (although he wouldn’t be as strong as he would have been if there wasn’t such conservative discontent).

    In terms of why Crist would run for the Senate rather than for reelection, it is likely because he has very long term goals in his political career. He can only run for Gov. for two consecutive terms then he is done. If he runs for Senate then he could run (and likely win) reelection for as long as he wants. Also, if sees that 2012 would be too hard to run for the GOP presidential nomination, he could try instead in 2016 in which Obama would be term limited out of office. It is also much easier for Crist to win a open Senate seat in 2010 then to challange Bill Nelson in 2012 for his Senate seat.

  7. Palin is not running for senate in 2010 according to the Fix.  

    I am a stuanch liberal… (A gay 21 year old college graduate living in Austin)  and I plan on voting for Kay in the primary.  Rick Perry has been a BAD governor and it is pretty likely that the republican will win.  So I will vote for the less of two evils and support the dem (most likely a former bush ambassador) once the general starts.

    I know a lot of people feel the same way… and by people I mean democrats.

  8. What the heck did this line mean: “never happy with Crist’s emphasis on racial diversity”? Is it code for Crist being in the closet or something?

    It would be nice if the wingnuts would mount a challenge to Crist even if he ran for re-election as gov!

  9. Sorry, but Charlie Crist’s potential primary situation is not comparable to Snarlin’ Arlen’s.

    Crist already won a contested primary for Governor just 3 years ago, and at that time he already was regarded as a moderate and was ideologically disliked by a lot of conservatives.  And just last year, McCain and Giuliani were equally ideologically disliked by a lot of those same conservatives and still combined for a majority of presidential primary votes.

    It’s hard to argue that the Republican primary electorate will have changed so much so quickly.

    And I don’t know that anything Crist has done as Governor has particularly surprised anyone or would be damning to a primary electorate.  I doubt the average primary voter cares so much about Crist’s strong support of voting rights, and I doubt he would bleed much support for supporting Obama on the stimulus bill.

    If Crist wants the Senate seat, it’s his unless he’s more fully “outed” as gay or otherwise suffers some NEW politically damaging problem.

  10. Hutchison, Specter, and Crist, I think Crist is the most likely to survive.  I think the other two will go down.

  11. That some of the most conservative Florida voters, rural DINOS who never changed their registration, can’t vote in the republican primaries.  It’s a double-edged sword.  There are a ton of them in the Panhandle and rural Central Florida counties.

  12. The new face of the GOP: Pat Toomey, Michele Bachmann, Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, Gov. Perry and Gov. Sanford.

  13. She’s pretty good. Still never going to (or have voted for her) but look at the other Senator we got. That’s what every other statewide official is like in Texas.

  14. Yeah, yeah, he was an ambassador for the Bush administration, but he seems to have made it clear that Bush was his friend and he was opposed to many of the policies he put in place. C’mon we all have a really conservative friend who we’ll stick by (I have a red neck as an ex-room mate who is talking about going as a “ghost” for Halloween this year, don’t judge that’s my job and I judged poorly on it).

    Still, Scheiffer seems to be lining up some decent support thus far. Let’s see what happens should no one else come forward.

    I’m still more concerned on sweeping Harris this year, getting rid of the last 6-12 countywide Republicans in Dallas, taking control of the state House, gaining in the state Senate (if it is possible), congressional districts TX-32/24/10, and holding on to all the Democrats (and we have all the positions in the off year cycles) we have in Galveston county which has been shifting Republican.

    I got the feeling it’s going to be one more cycle of staying local and spend this cycle and 2012 as dipping our toes into serious statewide bids. We’ll see.

  15. The one things that is going to throw the whole thing into a mess is Palin hanging around Texas for a month appearing next to Perry everywhere going to the megachurches (mostly in the SUBURBS which has been Hutch’s base more than Perry’s) addressing culture war issues of gays and abortion which Perry is more conservative on.

    Palin could turn this on its head by moving those white suburban voters into the primary to support “the right to life.”

    Afterall, no one votes in Texas primaries. Last year was the first real turn out in a Texas primary in a long time.

  16. I assume you mean Galveston county. Here’s the problem

    -Galveston Island had Hurricane Ike, so bye bye minorities and the red neck population has been increasing on the island

    Cities of Friendswood (from where I am typing/living) and League City has seen a ridiculous increase of white suburban voters. Friendswood went about 80%20% for McCain.

    -Cities of Texas City, Santa Fe, and Dickinson have seen the redneck population increase. This was decent democratic land of unionized small town folks who would have loved LBJ back in the day. It’s now shotgun owning folks in small/broken homes who are voting against their economic interests in favor of culture shock. Texas City is still okay but it’s trending away and will join the other soon enough; it’s the minority population keeping it from joining the others.

    -City of LaMarque is still a heavily African American city, but it is not a majority minority.

    -Kemah is where the people who own boats go to play. Richer population that was growing well before Hurricane Ike.

  17. She’s not a democrat in any way these day.

    Let’s watch her fall on her face as she gets 15% of the vote in the Austin Mayor race this spring. Former mayor gets bounced.

    She’s an opportunist, and a leach. She can go form her own party with Kinky.

  18. So much as the whites invaded and drowned them out as they were escaping the growing minority population of Harris county.

    Check the Harris county State house district going down I-45 towards Galveston. You got Noriega’s former seat (Heavily Hispanic), then a socially conservative mega-churc district that is competitive due to the number of minorities, then you get a white country club district on the edge bordering Galveston county.

    The further out you get from downtown, the more Republican it gets but the margins have been widening and then narrowing every cycle before they flip Dem as the whites move to the outskirts, and then the outskirts become inskirts, so they move again (North Galveston county Friendswood and League City is now the outskirts).

  19. and was a former Democrat and was willing to dump the Republicans and run against Perry as an independant in 2006. I can’t help but think she would run as a Dem in case Hutchinson lost.

  20. While hutchison is relatively sane by TX standards, i can’t think of how she could motivate moderates or democrats to come out to vote in a primary they never would otherwise without saying or doing something that would antagonize the majority of the GOP primary electorate.

    That is correct, and the exact problem. After having Palin walking around arm in arm with Perry stirring up the talk radio/FOX News/Megachurch social conservative wing all Hutch has to fall back on hoping there’s a backlash against this group by the rest of Texas. She has no real way to drive them to the polls.

  21. Only reason she ran for governor was not from some point of “she could save Perry from Texas. She can read a poll. She knew Perry was unpopular and thought there were more independents in Texas than straight tickets Democrats. Even though she got all the money from the Democratic trial lawyers and some teacher groups to endorse her, nope. None of the regulars bought what she was selling and she got third despite having millions more to spend than Bell (D).

    She was still running as a Republican, just a Republican in the mold of KBH rather than a Republican in the mold of Perry.

    Watch her campaign for mayor of Austin she’s running right now. No one even wants to hear what she is saying. No news time, no coverage.

    Carole 4 names (or is it 5?) would not be welcome in a Democratic primary and would be rejected real quick like.

  22. The Democrat has no chance against Hutchinson, but would be at least a tossup against Rick Perry.  Give the Dem a chance and vote for Perry in the primary.

  23. Crist would beat Meek or Gelber at minimum by about a 56-44 margin.  Probably winning with closer to 60%.  His only potential issue is the primary.

  24. Crist already won a contested primary for Governor just 3 years ago, and at that time he already was regarded as a moderate and was ideologically disliked by a lot of conservatives.

    No, that’s just plain wrong.  His entire 2006 campaign was running to be Jeb Bush’s heir apparent – codeword to the right that he was another far-right conservative.  He even tried to run to the right of his opponents at times.  There was nothing moderate about him in 2006.

    I do agree that he’s in nowhere close to the danger Arlen is in, but he’s certainly in trouble and he won’t have an easy primary if he runs for Senate.

  25. If he continues to do so, he could get a surprise or at least a close scare.  

    He isn’t another Spector but he can’t be too brazen either.  My guess is he will mute his support of moderate issues and especially Obama, if he runs for Senate.

  26. No I’ve never lived in Florida, and maybe the campaign in-state made Crist look different than to me, but as an outsider looking in everything I read at that time said that Crist was regarded as a moderate; that Jeb Bush and his wing of the party disliked him ideologically; and that his primary competition was flanking him from the right.  That’s stuff I read out in the open in news stories and blogs and on liberal blogs, not insider chatter.

  27. Well, if Crist is supported by the official Republican Party line, then he’s likely to beat out right-side challengers the way (I hear) Laffey was elbowed out of RI-Sen-2006.

    Also, what I would be very amused to hear is if Katherine Harris decides to challenge Crist.  Anyone know how popular she is with the Republican Base?

  28. Voting for Perry increases the chance that he’ll win the primary, but also increases the chance that he’ll win the general.  You never know.

  29. “sexual diversity” rather than “racial diversity”?  Or are both things equally anathema (and equally confused) among the right-wing base?

  30. So much so that even D’s have called him FL’s first black Governor. He has been adamant about filling his court appointments with minorities and even recently turned down a darling of the conservatives for a black judge. During the ’08 election he drew the ire of Republicans by extending early voting hours (some even claimed it threw the state to Obama.) He got about 18% of the black vote during his Guv run in ’06. His latest spat is with the state Judicial Nominating Commission. Twice they’ve sent him a list of applicants for a vacancy to the 5th DCA, and twice he’s rejected the entire list for lacking racial diversity. Now they’re suing him.

  31. I don’t think Hutchison would be that much better than perry as Governor anyway.  So I might as well take a shot to elect the Dem.

  32. Vote in the Democratic primary.

    I want to be better than the Limbaugh listeners who voted in our primary last year.

  33. You know what I mean.

    Though I’ve also seen a campaign ad idea called “The Bush Campaign’s TV Commercial if He Was Running Against Jesus”:

    Jesus of Nazareth says, “Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.”  Jesus favors more government handouts to welfare cheats.

    Jesus of Nazareth says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  Jesus is soft on crime.

    Jesus of Nazareth says, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”  Jesus will raise your taxes.

    Jesus of Nazareth says, “Do not resist one who is evil.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other.”  Can we trust Jesus to fight the War on Terror?

    Jesus — Wrong on social services.  Wrong on crime.  Wrong on defense.  Wrong for America.

    “I’m George W. Bush, and I approve this message.” [Bush-Cheney ’04 icon]

    I have no clue where it’s from.  Butit’s a jpg from somewhere on the internet, back in 2004.

  34. But I do live in Pennsylvania, where in 2004, I switched parties, voted and even volunteered a couple Saturdays for Pat Toomey.  

    I expect to do the same thing in 2010.  

  35. but those who don’t just hate Obama’s guts.

    The split is like:

    25% approve

    5% on the fence

    15% slightly disapprove

    55% strongly disapprove

  36. That Crist would oppose an obscene republican gerrymander in 2012.  I can’t see him approving a plan that packs too many minorities into any one district, diluting their strength.

  37. The way he’s been described here makes him seem more liberal than those Blue Dogs that flamed by liberals here all the time.

    I wonder if that will change in the Senate though.  Like, I’ve heard that M. Jodi Rell is super-popular as governor now, but she’ll have to tack right in order to appear at all credible as a Republican if she runs for CT-Sen.

  38. Thanks for posting that.  I remember getting a good laugh out of it last year when I first read it on DailyKos.  

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