Say what you will about Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, but the man is certainly campaigning to the beat of his own drummer.
Crist endorsed President Barack Obama’s re-election on his own timetable, just as he switched his party registration on a whim while attending a White House Christmas Party.
Crist set no timetable for when he would decide whether to run for governor, nor was there any was rhyme or reason why Crist launched his campaign November 4, 2013, other than it being exactly one year before the election. Nevermind that few campaigns get started weeks before the holidays, when political fundraising is at its most difficult.
After Crist formally declared his candidacy, he settled in for a long winter’s nap, raising just enough money to keep up appearances, but not enough to shut down his doubters.
Crist was strolling to the Governor’s Mansion, not running. Crist, who travels with a portable fan to cool him during appearances, does not like to break a sweat.
In February, there was a well-organized statewide tour promoting Crist’s book because, well, why not? Other than that, Crist’s effort hasn’t exactly been one of those message-of-the-day modern campaigns you see in an Aaron Sorkin movie.
When the press release went out today announcing (or was it warning?) that Crist would be making a “major” announcement, everyone knew that Charlie would be unveiling his running mate. No one’s thought for a long time that Crist could make a “major” policy proposal.
But there’s a reason why television shows do not debut in the middle of July; no one is around to watch them. They’re at the beach. They’re in the Carolinas. They’re on the East Coast if they’re from the West one and vice-versa.
Except Florida’s election calendar has been out-of-whack ever since mail-in balloting was introduced. While the Democratic primary is officially scheduled for August 26, Election Day is actually some time next week, when hundreds of thousands of ballots will be sent to so-called early voters. Crist’s savvier-than-thou campaign team is highly aware of this and undoubtedly timed the LG reveal to coincide.
They won’t say it, but Crist’s advisers want to beat Nan Rich worse than Germany thumped Brazil in the World Cup. Naming Annette Taddeo-Goldstein is part of that strategy.
Still, Crist’s thinking goes against the conventional wisdom Steven Spielberg relied on when making his first summer blockbuster, Jaws. Spielberg knew that to keep his audience in suspense, he couldn’t show the shark in the first scene.
Inexplicably, Crist has revealed his shark earlier than expected.
There’s been little of the speculation which usually accompanies one of these picks. Remember it took Rick Scott almost a year to find a replacement for the disgraced Jennifer Carroll. Yet it took Crist only a few days after the July 4th holiday to arrive at his decision.
So what about the decision, however it was timed?
The choice of Taddeo-Goldstein, the chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, is both hopeful and cynical.
It is hopeful because, for millions of Hispanic Floridians, Taddeo-Goldstein’s presence on the Democratic ticket and Carlos Lopez-Cantera’s name on the GOP slate, is final proof that they have a permanent seat at the political table. Hispanic politics do not begin at the water’s edge and end at Alligator Alley, instead they are part of everyday life for each of us and the smart, successful leaders already recognize this.
Crist’s decision is also another indication that he is not as, well, dumb as Jim Davis or Alex Sink or previous Democratic standard-bearers who just could not get right the party’s identity politics.
Critics of Crist’s pick say that selecting Taddeo-Goldstein was simply a matter of her filling out all the right boxes. Woman? Check. Hispanic? Check. From South Florida? Check.
But that’s simply the reality of campaigning in a state as diverse as Florida. Credit goes to both Scott and Crist for recognizing this and personally not making too big a show of it, i.e., “Some of my favorite running mates are Hispanic.”
No, the cynicism of Crist’s pick lies in how far Crist has moved to embrace the Democratic wing of the Democratic party. Just on Wednesday, Crist drew a distinction between he and Gov. Scott by saying he would govern not in a bipartisan way, but with a non-partisan approach. Yet by picking Taddeo-Goldstein he’s put a county party chair just one phone call from Hillary Clinton (“Hey, Charlie, do you want to be my VP?”) from the Governor’s Office.
Remember the last time Crist elevated a naturally partisan county chair to a statewide position? That’s right, his name was Jim Greer and he just got out of prison two weeks ago.