Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aug. 11: Where's Charlie, and There Goes Mel

By Sylvia Gurinsky

What's happened to the governor of Florida?

In trying to get elected senator, Charlie Crist is throwing away the playbook he used to become governor in 2006. During the Republican primary that year, he paid little attention to Tom Gallagher, a once-moderate Republican who veered sharply right. Crist played the middle and won the hearts of swing-voting Floridians.

This time, history isn't repeating itself, at least not yet. Crist apparently doesn't like what the polls are telling him about the gap between him and this campaign's designated righty, former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, though most newspaper polls put Crist way in front.

Therefore, the governor of all the people is trying to turn into the senatorial candidate for only part of Florida. Crist's public statement that he would have voted against new Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor and his veering away from his energy policy of last year show that he's trying to appeal to some of the voters Rubio has been courting.

In so doing, Crist may turn off at least some of those swing voters from 2006. Somewhere, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the leading Democratic contender for that Senate seat, is taking notes.


Speaking of that Senate seat, Mel Martinez, who currently occupies it, isn't willing to wait around to find out who will win it in November, 2010. He's stepping down.

Martinez apparently has never had a taste for politics, and even less so with the pressures of being part of today's Republican Party. Separation from his family and pressures of caring for an elderly parent apparently added to the decision.

This writer wouldn't mind Crist appointing the man who preceded Martinez - Bob Graham - to serve the remainder of the term. The old, 2006 Crist might have done so. One wonders whether the new Crist will appoint someone who fulfills Florida's best interests - or his best primary election interests.

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