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Charlie Crist may be likable, but how soon before he eyes a new gig?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

One of Charlie Crist’s best traits is his likability.

He can be a candle-in-the-wind on issues, depending on his audience. Changing parties infuriated Republicans and made Democrats skeptical. And once he gets a job, he tends to get wandering eyes for his next gig. But damn, he is a really nice guy. Despite his baggage, people like him and a lot of them vote for him.

That’s one reason he rose above the political tsunami that swamped Democrats nationwide and beat another good guy in Republican David Jolly to represent Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Given that, it’s puzzling that Crist so far apparently hasn’t used his best trait to solidify the home base, even as he adjusts to life in the U.S. House of Representatives. Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reported Sunday Crist has had a series of stumbles that have supporters wondering what the heck is going on.

Smith wrote that Crist and his wife, Carole, who is paid to oversee his political activities, “generated widespread grumbling and head-scratching about his clumsy start in Congress, even among longtime friends.”

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, a Democrat, told the newspaper Crist hasn’t touched base with her since he left for Washington.

“I can only compare the two, and right after David Jolly was elected he was calling my office and asking for a meeting and wanting to work together,” she said. “We built a very tight relationship. I’m hoping we can build the same kind of relationship with Charlie.”

Compare Crist to other members of Congress from the area. Democrat U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor frequently returns to Tampa and Hillsborough County to keep in touch with voters.

Republicans Gus Bilirakis (District 12) and Rep. Dennis Ross (District 15) do the same.

Bilirakis, as was widely reported, held a second “listening session” Saturday with Pasco County voters who forcefully oppose his plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It was the second such meeting Bilirakis has had on that issue with constituents in his district. Give the man credit for showing up.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is another politician who never forgets to keep in touch with the home folks. And we all remember how the late U.S. Rep. Bill Young was an unrelenting champion for Pinellas County.

But where is Charlie?

If this trend continues, it likely will embolden Republicans to find a serious challenger to go after his seat in 2018. It might even inspire a primary challenge from Crist’s own party — assuming he still is a Democrat by then (you never know).

Or, we have to note, people may start to wonder if Crist will lose interest in his current job the way he did as governor and state attorney general and not run for re-election at all.

He could squash all that by just being good ol’ likable Charlie. People will be waiting.

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Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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