This hero's journey is all about sacrifice and redemption. Crist would need to sacrifice (for now) his dream of taking the next step up the political ladder. The way this three-way Senate race is shaping up, Crist won't achieve that goal anyway. But what he's certain to accomplish is a split of Democratic and Independent votes - the large majority of overall votes - between him and Democrat Kendrick Meek, thereby handing Rubio the Senate seat with only 40-something percent of the vote.
Such a minority vote victory for Rubio would be exactly that, a victory for extreme conservative positions that are out of step with the moderate mainstream majority of Florida voters. Among other things, Marco Rubio is:
- In favor of lowering corporate taxes & eliminating capital gains taxes
- In favor using the same individual "flat" tax rate for rich & poor people
- In favor of privatization, benefit cuts, higher eligibility age for Social Security
- In favor of ongoing offshore oil drilling near Florida's coastlines
- In favor of repealing health reform that insures sick children for the first time
- Opposed to women's abortion rights & stem cell research
- Opposed to pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
- Opposed to any kind of gun control
If Charlie Crist is in fact a post-partisan moderate who wants to put party politics aside and focus on the greater good, then his mission should be clear. The politically savvy, selfless and yes, the heroic move for Crist would be to withdraw from the Senate race before early voting begins and endorse Meek. If he does that, Meek wins, end of story. Only Charlie Crist has the power and capacity to give the large moderate majority of Florida voters a fair chance to reject the politics of extremism and divisiveness, while embracing the politics of centrism and inclusiveness.
There are some good reasons why it is Crist and not Meek that must throw himself on the reactionary political grenade that is Marco Rubio before it explodes on Election Day. First, Meek has had all the momentum since his huge win over billionaire rival Jeff Greene in the Democratic primary. Meek's poll numbers have been climbing while Crist's have been falling. Then we have a situation where Crist in stuck in the thick of a Republican corruption scandal. His friend, ally and hand-picked party chairman, Jim Greer is awaiting trial for fraud and related felony charges and Crist is expected to be called as a witness. New party chairman John Thrasher has announced that a party audit shows Greer and Crist spent thousands of donor dollars on personal vacations, and a GOP lawsuit against Crist may be in the offing.
Does that sound like a combination of elements that could possibly add up to victory for Crist on Election Day, even if it was Meek who dropped out of the race? I don't think so.
Just for good measure, consider the experience factor. the kind of experience you'd hope to see from a candidate for U.S. Senate. Crist went from being FL Attorney General to governor, then decided to run for Senator halfway through his first term, spending significant time the last couple of years shifting gears between fund-raising, campaigning, and attending to his gubernatorial duties. Kendrick Meek rose through the ranks of the Florida House and Senate, got elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, spent years gaining foreign & military policy experience on the House Armed Services Committee before moving over to his current spot on the all-important House Ways & Means Committee. I'm not saying Charlie Crist doesn't have what it takes to be a U.S. Senator, but I think the contrast in experience here speaks for itself.
Now, far be it from me to tell Crist how to map out his political future. Then again, why not? I've been closely following and writing about him for the last 18 months or so. In fact, the very first column I wrote in this space was about Charlie Crist. The truth is that while I've found him personable and likable, I've also seen him flip flop so many times in so many ways on so many issues that I can't help but view his political persona with healthy skepticism, to put it mildly. However, my guess is that there's a lot more substance, solidity and conviction there than has come across over the last couple of years. It is in that spirit that I suggest he make the kind of big, bold, decisive move that would remake his image and endear him to millions of alienated centrists, not just in Florida, but nationwide. Such terms of endearment would then be waiting to welcome Crist whenever he makes his next political move and/or run for office.
The irony here, and I hope and pray that Charlie Crist himself can see it, is that only by withdrawing from the Senate race with dignity and determination while endorsing Kendrick Meek, can Crist enjoy a victory come Election Day. He really does seem like a good guy, and I'd like nothing more than to see him smiling up on that stage with Meek on Election night, sharing in the satisfaction and relief of having helped achieve a big push-back win for moderates of all affiliations.