Charlie Crist, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Arlen Specter share one thing in common. During the glory days of early 2009, when President Obama was still basking in the full awesomeness of his omnipotence, they hit the panic button.
Hutchison, the Senior Senator from Texas, chose to run for governor in a primary against popular incumbent Rick Perry. Part of her motivation to do so was surely based on a political calculus that showed her party being out of power for a long time. Specter’s decision to switch parties was less surprising given his history of derailing Republican policy during his tenure as the most reluctant Republican in the Senate since Jim Jeffords. Crist’s decision today to run as an independent in a Florida Senate Primary where he was being crushed by Marco Rubio is the most cynical of these moves. All three of the politicians caved to the 2009 Obama awesomeness early and often. Hutchison, to her credit, sacrificed some of her credibility but remained loyal to her Party and the thousands of contributors that financed her campaigns.
Crist and Specter, however, are cynical opportunists that should be thrown to the curb. They have earned well the Ayn Rand Wesley Mouch Award for deceiving, conniving con artists devoid of any principle. There is a lesson here for Republicans that should be heeded if the national Republican Party seeks to maintain any credibility with conservatives and libertarians: moderates are suspect and have a very poor track record in national campaigns. John McCain, the hold your nose vote for many Republicans in 2008, garnered 2,000,000 fewer votes in 2008 than George W. Bush received in 2004 against John Kerry. Bush got these additional votes because he stuck to certain principles, many unpopular in his Party. But he was seen as a man of conviction (at considerable cost to his political legacy), not a mavericky opportunist. This explains why Senator McCain is having trouble in his primary in Arizona against a weak and poorly financed opponent.
After three years of a wrenching recession voters have developed finely tuned bull shit meters and incumbents across the country are at considerable risk. Crist is surely ignoring the lessons of Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts that have already established the template for 2010. But that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The leap from shameless careerist to poseur fighting the machine is seen by today’s electorate for the patently dishonest posturing that it is. Crist is a mountebank who might displace Specter as the most despicable pol of the new century (excepting the Emperor himself). It’s no surprise that his staff is fleeing in droves.