But what happens when Crist loses?
An unscientific poll of 24 members of the Pinellas Republican Executive Committee reveals that Rubio’s support in Crist’s home county is as strong here as it has been in other counties. 16 of the 24 members said they were voting for or leaning to Rubio, while 6 said they were voting for or leaning to Crist. 2 respondents said they were truly undecided.
Pinellas ia Crist’s firewall and not in the Hillary Clinton sense of the word. The Pinellas straw ballot has to go for Crist or his campaign goes into free fall with a disastrous legislative session looming for Crist. If Crist gets bogged down in Tallahassee, the race could be over by May.
The national conservative media will turn a Crist loss into a clarion call that David can, in fact, beat Goliath. Remember it was the PCREC’s endorsement that was the lynchpin of Crist’s victory in 2006 over Tom Gallagher. It was DiMatteo, then chair of the PCREC, who engineered the county’s support for Crist (along with a contribution for $50,000) and walled-off Tampa Bay from Gallagher’s campaign.
So the question remains, can Crist win Pinellas?
Since Crist was elected, he has alienated DiMatteo and many other local Republicans irked by Crist’s questionable appointments, such as the time when Crist selected Democrat Jack Hellinger over loyal Republican and straight-shooter Tommy Minkoff. Crist’s receent appoint of Minkoff to an open judicial seat was suppose to soothesome of the bad feelings felt among local activists, but these activist smell blood and the . Crist did do right by JJ Beyrouti, appointing him to the Pinellas County Housing Authority, but that was only a start.
Recently, Gary Fineout’s wrote an excellent piece about titled “So where did it start to go wrong for Charlie Crist?” in which he makes the argument that if you look closely (Crist’s) press coverage began to change during the summer of 2008. This is when Crist went on a trade mission to Europe and Russia where he did things like discuss climate change with the Prince of Wales. At a time when the state’s economy was already souring, this was the first time that it was suggested that Crist’s political radar had malfunctioned.
But if St. Pete wasn’t with Charlie, the Pinellas GOP always was with him. That’s why I can’t tell you how much it hurt Charlie when he turned his back on his local allies. But Charlie will find out next weekend during the most difficult 48 Hours of his political career.