Remember the Charlie Crist who in February happily shared a stage in Fort Myers with President Obama? Remember the Charlie Crist who loved the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus plan that only three of his fellow Republicans in Congress voted for? Remember That Charlie Crist?
As of last week, he ceased to exist. That Charlie Crist was governor of Florida, desperate for the $13.7 billion the state would get from the stimulus. That Charlie Crist wanted the federal money so he could round off the edges of the next two state budgets. That Charlie Crist wanted people to think that Florida is spending a little more on education than last year even during historically bad financial times without raising taxes.
This Charlie Crist is a candidate for the U.S. Senate. This Charlie Crist, as he stated in a news release last week, is a “fiscal conservative.” This Charlie Crist wants Republican primary voters next year not to remember That Charlie Crist.
Though That Charlie Crist backed President Obama on the stimulus, This Charlie Crist opposes the president’s plan to raise the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent because of the “structural damage higher tax rates will do to the long-term growth potential of our nation’s economy.” During the record peacetime economic expansion of the 1990s the top rate was at 39.5 percent.
This Charlie Crist worries that Mr. Obama’s budget policy will “severely increase our national debt.” This Charlie Crist warns that the debt could “increase by $3.7 trillion by 2014.” This Charlie Crist is right to be concerned about the ballooning debt, which could make the United States more vulnerable to foreign currency buyers than we are to foreign energy suppliers. But even if the national debt hit $14.3 trillion in 2014, that would be a smaller increase – $3.7 trillion – than occurred under President Bush. That Charlie Crist never peeped when the national debt rose by almost $5 trillion, nearly doubling, under Mr. Bush.
And like all governors, even “fiscal conservatives,” That Charlie Crist hasn’t refused any money from Washington. That Charlie Crist begged the U.S. Department of Education for a waiver to get $2.2 billion in stimulus money even though Florida didn’t qualify because the state had been shorting education.
You can’t campaign as a “fiscal conservative” while slamming budget-busting federal spending you lusted after to make you look good. At least, you can’t do that if you want to be honest.
This Charlie Crist, however, faces a challenger in the GOP primary – former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio – who is running for the Tea Party vote. So This Charlie Crist brags that he has “cut state spending by $7 billion.” Any “credit” goes to the recession.
Of course, This Charlie Crist isn’t being any more dishonest than so many politicians of both parties. But he’s running in the nation’s biggest swing state. He’s running as the Republicans nationally confront irrelevance. He’s a governor who worked with liberal Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler on an elections bill, a governor who believes that human activity causes global warming and a governor who extended early voting hours last year in a move that angered Republicans.
Richard Viguerie, the very strong conservative who pioneered direct-mail fund-raising for the Republicans 30 years ago, last week touted a poll of “self-identified conservatives” showing that 91 percent of them believe that President Obama “is a socialist (46 percent), Marxist (24 percent), communist (11 percent) or fascist (10 percent.)” According to Mr. Viguerie, these results mean that “America is becoming much more polarized.” (Mr. Obama has a roughly 70 percent approval rating.) “Any Republican who wants to be a national leader will feel obligated to view Obama as the vast majority of the GOP base sees him.”
Gov. Crist, though, has remained popular by appealing to more than “the GOP base.” Floridians will have to watch over the next 18 months which Charlie Crist is making the big decisions involving Florida. What will the governor use to get to the Senate? First, a bit of This. Then, a bit of That.