Breaking: Crist picks Martinez replacement in Senate

BabaluBlog had it first, followed by the rest of the national media.  Val says George Lemieux calls himself a “Charlie Crist Republican,” which gives us an idea of what to expect from Mel Martinez’ temporary replacement.  Crist obviously needs a placeholder, but did he choose the right one?

LeMieux, a longtime Republican insider in the state, has served as chairman of the Broward County Republican Party, deputy state attorney general and campaign manager for Crist’s 2006 run for governor. He ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 1998.

LeMieux was among nine other candidates who made Crist’s short list, which included several former congressmen, former Jacksonville Mayor John Delaney and former state attorney general and secretary of state Jim Smith. ….

GOP state Rep. Jennifer Carroll, another contender for the vacant seat, told POLITICO that she found out LeMieux was the pick when Crist called her Friday morning to inform her.

Carroll said Crist made the pick because “he probably felt safe in knowing George, he’s been his chief of staff and confidant for years.”

I’d guess that Crist feels safe in knowing Lemieux won’t try to keep the seat next year.  Crist already has thrown his hat in the ring for the Senate seat, with Marco Rubio challenging him from the Right in the primaries.  He doesn’t need to fight his own man, who lost a bid for Congress and has no chance at all to leverage a temporary incumbency into a re-election bid.

But was that the smart call?  Crist could have picked a “Marco Rubio Republican” instead, one that might have had no risk for Crist to keep the seat but could have bolstered his standing with Florida conservatives.  That kind of strategy would allow Crist to make an argument to the broad spectrum of GOP voters; instead, he chose to remain within his narrow circle of friends and advisers.  That will hardly benefit Crist in the primaries next year, especially if Lemieux demonstrates his “Crist Republican” credentials by supporting cap-and-trade or ObamaCare, or especially Porkulus II, still rumored to be under consideration in Congress.

Rubio has plenty of ammunition already with Crist, and this may add to it.