Coming at 5 p.m. ET to a cable network near you, Charlie Crist explains the deep, principled opposition to our decadent two-party system that he suddenly developed, like, two weeks ago. How cynically repulsive is this party switch? Repulsive enough to have David Frum suddenly waving the banner of tea-party darling Marco Rubio. No foolin’:
The center right has got to hold together. We cannot afford more NY-23s. In all but the most extreme circumstances, the rule has to be that those who participate in a party contest abide by the results of that process. It’s one thing if the race is Lieberman v. Lamont, and what’s at issue is success or failure in war. I used that comparison in a tweet today, but it does not stand up to scrutiny: the differences between Crist and Rubio are much more differences in tone, temperament, and personality. Had Crist prevailed in the Florida Republican primary, he would have had every valid reason to expect Rubio to support the outcome. The reverse should have held true.
Top Republicans are naturally demanding their money back from Crist today; true to venal form, he’s returning donations pro-rated. Why do that given the bad press it’s going to stir up for him? Because he has no choice. The well is running dry:
[O]ne Florida source with knowledge of the Republican money game argued that Crist is badly underestimating the number of refunds that will be asked for/demanded. If it’s $1 million then Crist can weather it; if it’s $3 million (or more) that is a problem. The other piece of the money puzzle for Crist is how he can raise enough money — in addition to what he has already collected — to be competitive in such a pricey state in which to run for office. Crist will undoubtedly keep some of his closest money men (and women) but we are talking about a $15 million plus endeavor for a serious general election campaign and it’s not yet clear how he can get to that number. It’s also worth remembering that Crist has never in his political career had to worry about being outspent; he had been, until very recently, one of the pre-eminent fundraisers in the GOP.
The other question o’ the day is whether he can win. Larry Sabato thinks he’s got a slim chance, but check the math in this post by Ben Smith. To have a credible shot, he needs 35 percent of Republicans and 30 percent of Democrats, which almost certainly isn’t happening. Which brings me to Jay Cost’s spot-on analysis on why Crist is simply insane to run this year instead of cooling off and trying again in 2012. Some of it overlaps with things I’ve been saying lately, but the point about strategic voting bears quoting:
Remember the New Jersey governor’s race? Independent Christopher Daggett was polling at 10%, but only got 5.8% on Election Day. There’s a reason for that. American elections are winner take all, which makes it very difficult for third parties to thrive. Once voters catch wind that a vote for a third party candidate is a waste, they’ll bail on that candidate. This suggests that Crist is going to have to “defeat” either Marco Rubio or Kendrick Meek prior to Election Day. Now, how do you suppose he’s going to do that? He hasn’t been able to defeat Rubio yet. That means he will have to nullify Meek. I’m skeptical he’ll be able to do that. As an African American, Meek can expect strong support from the roughly 14% of the electorate that is black. That’s one big problem. Another big problem is that Crist will first have to get the Democratic Party establishment to get behind him, and the White House is refusing to take his calls. With good reason. They’re banking that Crist will siphon off just enough votes from Rubio to elect Meek. And anyway, with Roland Burris leaving the upper chamber next year, there might not be a single African American Senator in the 112th Congress. Can the Democratic establishment really turn its back on Meek – for Charlie Crist of all people? No way!
Independent candidates simply don’t win true three-way elections, and cynical, careerist, opportunistic, lying candidates really don’t win in a political climate like 2010. This guy is virtually the antithesis of the tea-party ethos — ironically, given the media blather about tea partiers embracing third parties — and yet he’s betting his political future that he can overcome it all and squeak through. I’ll give him this: He’s got balls. But not much else. Stand by for video.
Update: MSNBC’s got a live feed. Commenters are telling me the presser’s been pushed back to 5:30.