Thursday, April 02, 2009

Crist Clearing the Field

Congressman Connie Mack has officially pulled himself out of the Senate race. Before all the talk about Gov. Charlie Crist, Mack would have been considered a number one contender – someone able to get elected statewide solely on the basis of voters confusing him with his father (former Senator Connie Mack).

Between Mack publicly giving up his ambition (though he could decided to push Bill Nelson towards retirement in 2012) and former Speaker Marco Rubio obviously and embarrassingly just waiting to run for whichever office – governor or senator – that Crist is not, it seems pretty clear that Crist sees the U.S. Senate as the best way out of the nightmare of recriminations and unethical accounting measures that will be the state budget for the foreseeable future.

Assuming no Republican in his right mind is going to run against Crist – what does this mean?

Does Rep. Adam Putnam, who chose to run for Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs just because, at the time, it was the only open statewide constitutional office, switch to governor? Because let’s not kid ourselves that Putnam’s deep and abiding ambition is to be in charge of citrus chancre. No – he wants to be governor on the way to the presidency. Agriculture was just the first open seat. Does he go for the safer bet and stick with Ag, but risk not having a clear shot at the governor’s mansion for eight years, instead of only four? Or does he bet the farm?

Putnam would certainly like his odds, except that two people (might) stand in his way.

Attorney General Bill McCollum surely wants something more from life. It’s an old political joke – AG doesn’t actually stand for “Attorney General,” but actually means “Aspiring Governor.” He’s got a solid record running for statewide office, but you can’t shake the feeling that he’s already hit his peak and Attorney General is about as high as he’ll ever go. Not to mention, people just don’t really like him that much.

CFO Alex Sink waved off calls to challenge Crist for governor (when he seemed likely to run for re-election) and also waved off calls to challenge Martinez or run for his open Senate seat (when it seemed that Crist would not run). Though no one seems to be talking about, she is pretty clearly in the catbird’s seat if she wants to run for governor. She’s a solid vote getter and, despite GOP efforts to bring her down, pretty darn popular. She hails from the number one swing media market in the state – Tampa Bay – and know how to raise the dough.

Notice how I don’t say that Marco Rubio stands in anybody’s way. Because he doesn’t. Rubio seriously needs to call Tom Lee or Johnny Bird or any person who was a big shot in the legislator who tried to run for statewide or federal office and see how it worked for them. Because it didn’t.


At 4/03/2009 09:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crist was in the FL legislature before he ran for statewide office. he's obviously been successfu.

At 4/03/2009 01:51:00 PM, Blogger Campaign Manager said...

Point taken, but I would argue that the landscape has changed to make it more difficult for someone with that profile to make it statewide. And the list of formerly mighty (paging Byrd) Speakers who failed to make it to the next level should serve as a warning to Rubio.

At 4/05/2009 07:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real difference is term limits. Right now, term limits means that powerful legislators, particularly Speakers, attain their position having had relatively little legislative experience and without the ability to develop the kind of state wide network and profile that lends itself to running for statewide office.

At 4/06/2009 08:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You also overlook the fact that Crist did run for statewide office from his position as a state legislator - he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1998 - and lost... badly.


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