Thursday, April 15, 2010

And Crist Gets Kicked from the GOP Reindeer Games in 5... 4... 3...

And the fandom rejoiced: Crist vetoes the SB 6 "Death To Tenure" bill the Republican-led state legislature tried to force onto the state of Florida.

The way things stand, the lege doesn't have the vote to override the veto, so the bill is dead.  Now all that happens is that the state (and national) Republican party leadership is going to go after Crist's head on a platter.

Some background is needed.  The state Republicans - and the national level crowd - never really had a lot of love for workers' unions.  Especially teachers' unions.  And the Republicans really don't have a lot of love overall for education in this nation - facts tend to lean too, ah, liberal for them - so any chance they can get to screw around with education is a good thing for them.

The SB 6 was the result of the previous Florida governor Jeb "I'm the Smart One" Bush's push via his 'education foundation' to screw with our state.  The final bill's result - gutting tenure, switching to an annual employment contract rather than a long-term contract, eliminating raises based on experience and advanced degrees (NOTE: My mom worked as a Florida teacher since 1978-79, and in the 1990s worked on a doctorate so she could get a teacher's raise for it.  The bill would have killed that kind of teacher improvement), and tying teacher evaluations to students' testing scores - would have been the crown jewel of the ex-governor's push to punish the Florida teachers' union no wait that's right, there's been an open war between Jeb and the teachers for a good long while (what happa, Jeb, did a Phys Ed teacher give you a C for lousy volleyball play?).

Public response to the bill was overwhelming.  Nearly everyone who wasn't a Republican state official HATED it.  Crist had gotten over 100,000 messages with over 58,000 opened by this point and nearly all of them begging him to veto the thing.  Because Crist is out campaigning for the US Senate primary, he ran into a sizable portion of Republican voters... who all told him they had relatives working as teachers or were themselves teachers who were going to get screwed over by the bill.

Let's be fair about this: Crist was all for the anti-tenure bill... until the people spoke in such numbers that he had to pause and step back.  And like I said about him earlier, Crist may be crazy but he's not stupid.  And he's also not entirely beholden anymore to a political party that's all but dumped on him.

I earlier thought Crist had a good chance in his Senate campaign because I figured a majority of Republican voters in this state would wise up and realize that a Republican who played well to Democratic and Independent crowds (like Crist) come November was a better choice than a Far Right Winger like Rubio.  Well, color me the naive optimist.  Crist is getting his ass handed to him in the primary polls by about 27 points, with Rubio up like 62 to 35 percent of the pre-polled votes.  Rubio is also getting all the national love with the likes of Palin, The Club for Greed, and Rudy Giuliani campaigning for him (Jeb hasn't openly supported either candidate but it's an open secret Jeb doesn't like Crist much.  Jeb definitely hates him now for the veto... ).  Apparently the Far Right Wingnuts are in full control of the state party.  And now the paradox I warned about - that an extremist party can win a primary but suffer in the general election - is close to playing out.

Crist is paying now because he openly supported President Obama's economic stimulus package back in 2009.  Mind you, that stimulus was something EVERY state needed (almost every state is struggling to this day with severe budget shortfalls), but because of the GOP's ambitions and obstructionist mood nearly every Republican leader denounced it even as they gleefully took the money.  The Republicans didn't want to give Obama any bipartisan political cover at all.  Crist didn't read the memo: he greeted Obama as the President toured the nation promoting the stimulus, and essentially gave Obama the cover he needed.  The GOP hasn't forgiven Crist at all, even though he played it true.

But for all the hatred that Crist generates within his own party, he plays well as an overall candidate when you include the Democrats and Independent voters into the mix.  Especially now that he vetoed this thing, he's gotten in good with a large voting bloc (teachers and their families).  In short, there's been a lot of buzz about Crist running as an Independent ticket (or even switching to the Democrats' side of the primary).

Polling is showing Crist does well if he drops out of the GOP and runs as an Indy.  In a three-way race, Crist tops out at 32 percent, Rubio at 30 and likely Democratic candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek at 24.  And the polling was before the veto was signed: if the outrage against the bill is any indicator Crist's popularity statewide will go up.

Historically, a contested-three-way race doesn't help an Independent: the entrenched party system makes sure of that.  The few Independents who do win (such as Joe "It's All For Me" Lieberman) overtake an existing candidate (Lieberman essentially stole all the support from the established GOP candidate Schlesinger) or else happen to run where one party has no challenger in place (still making it a de facto two-party race).  Crist will be fighting a tough race as an Indy as long as both Rubio and Meek stay in the fight: the Democrats might like what Crist did just now for the teachers' unions, but politics is politics and they'll vote Meek just so there's an actual Dem in the Senate.

Crist's problem is that he's got a time limit: if he doesn't drop out before the last week of April and enlist as an Independent candidate, he'll miss that deadline.  The primary itself is in AUGUST: that meager lead Rubio has could well explode before then and Crist will get pummeled and humiliated worse than Mondale was in 1984.  If he drops out, though, he'll be called 'opportunistic' and 'traitor' and Lord knows everything else by the GOP... but it's not like he's being treated politely right now anyway.  What will happen is that he will lose the backing of an existing political machine and be left alone without a base of support.  Switching to the Democratic party is another option, but Meek isn't dropping out for what I know...

Part of me actually wants the Republican Party to openly dismiss / kick Crist out of the party: makes it easier for everyone involved.  It'll definitely make the GOP look petty and demonstrate their decades-long push to drive moderates out of the party.

In truth, though: Crist needs to drop out of the GOP and run as an Independent.  His political career in the Republican Party is done, finished.  The party's open support for Rubio was too obvious a clue: their coming outrage over his vetoing Jeb Bush's pet project even more so.  If Crist wants to remain in politics, he's going to have to go it alone for now.  On his terms.

It sucks that the political system is like this now.  But the damn Purity Party led by the RINO hunting Club for Greed has made it this way.

Fly, Crist, fly away you're free!

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