Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feb. 26: The Republicans' Hope (Just Not the One They Figured On)

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal did a Bill Clinton Vintage 1988 the other night in his response to President Barack Obama's speech. (To recall, Clinton bit the dust during the 1988 Democratic National Convention while he was introducing that year's presidential nominee, Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.)

The speech probably won't hurt Jindal in the long run, as Clinton's speech didn't. Jindal's ideas and ideology might affect him, however.

But another alternative has come up as a leader for the Republican Party. He may not be the one they're counting on, because many are angry at him just now. Still, he may be a potential leader to take them out of that rut.

He has a familiar name: Charlie Crist.

That's not to say the governor of Florida is the ideal political leader. My friend and former colleague Michael Putney wrote a very good column about Crist earlier this week in The Miami Herald:

As Michael points out, Crist is extremely popular and personable. Kind of reminds folks of another guy who was popular and personable. Name of Reagan.

Reagan did have a major advantage over Crist: Agree with him or not, Americans always knew where he stood.

As popular as Crist is with Floridians, he's managed to infuriate a number of them over flip-flops on certain issues, particularly offshore oil drilling, which he opposed when he ran for governor in 2006, but now seems to support. High approval ratings and all, there is room for an effective opponent to hit him hard on that and other matters.

Right-wing Republicans aren't exactly crazy about him either at the moment, given his support of Obama's stimulus package. Guess what, though: Crist's path may be the way for them to go.

Last fall, those Republicans took a popular man with generally moderate beliefs - Sen. John McCain - and managed, with ideological pressure, to turn him into the loser of the presidential election. Waffler or not, Crist has shown some spine with these people.

That spine may be why the governor of Florida - not Louisiana or Alaska - may be the "it" person for the G.O.P. in 2012.

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