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Must read from Newsweek: The Resurrection of Charlie Crist

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Newsweek goes all biblical on Charlie Crist:

Not long ago, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist seemed like a dead pol walking. Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio was thrashing him in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Crist’s 30-point lead had swung to a 30-point deficit; funding was drying up, as were endorsements. “He’s deader than the day before yesterday,” former state GOP chair Tom Slade told the St. Petersburg Times in late April. “I don’t think there’s any way in the world he can rehabilitate himself.” Crist’s collegial centrism, the conventional wisdom held, had become anachronistic at a time when angry right-wing populism had overtaken his party.

Crist’s resurgence also stems in part from his shift back to where he’s always seemed most comfortable: the political center. That’s where he’s largely governed as the state’s chief executive—pursuing a Republican agenda of low taxes and limited government, but also collaborating with Democrats on environmental issues and judicial appointments. The approach made him one of the most popular governors in the country. “He’s got almost extraterrestrial instincts about the political pulse,” says Mac Stipanovich, a Republican lobbyist and Crist supporter. “All he has to figure out is what you want to hear, and as long as it doesn’t contradict something he said yesterday, you will probably hear it.”

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It’s still a long way to November, of course. Rubio remains a formidable challenger—and, given his announcement last week that he had raised a record-setting $4.5 million in the second quarter, a well-financed one. But through a mixture of deft maneuvering and plain good luck, Crist has somehow seized the momentum. During the spring legislative session, he vetoed two controversial bills pushed by overzealous Republican leaders—one dealing with teacher tenure, the other with abortion—thereby positioning himself as a bulwark against extremism. He has benefited from disarray in the Democratic primary, as the lackluster establishment candidate, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, fends off a challenge from a billionaire, Jeff Greene, who earned the nickname “meltdown mogul” by profiting from bets against the housing market. And Crist has gotten a lot of positive press—as well as an uptick in approval ratings—for his energetic response to the BP oil disaster that has gunked up Florida beaches with tar balls. In contrast to Rubio, who still supports offshore drilling, Crist has called the legislature to a special session this week to promote a constitutional ban against the practice.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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