Charlie Crist Hugs Barack Obama All Over Again

The once-and-maybe-future Florida governor says “it’s hard” to think of a policy difference between him and the president — and he even excuses the Obamacare rollout.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) embraces former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist as he takes the stage during a campaign on the campus of St. Petersburg College September 8, 2012 in St Petersburg, Florida. Working with the momentum from this week's Democratic National Convention, Obama is doing a two-day campaign swing from one side of Florida to the other on the politically important I-4 corridor.
National Journal
By Beth Reinhard
Feb. 9, 2014, 9:16 a.m.

You’d think Charlie Crist would know bet­ter.

He nearly des­troyed his polit­ic­al ca­reer five years ago by wrap­ping his arms around Barack Obama. And now he’s do­ing it again.

He’s prais­ing Obama for the fed­er­al aid in 2009 that helped Flor­ida bal­ance its budget and for spear­head­ing the BP oil-spill cleanup in 2010. He says that “it’s hard” to think of policy dif­fer­ences between him and Obama. He be­lieves Obama has done “a tre­mend­ous job” as pres­id­ent.

And he’ll even ex­cuse the calam­itious rol­lout of the Obama­care web­site. “You can’t con­trol everything,” he said in an in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al last week. “I un­der­stand that hav­ing been the chief ex­ec­ut­ive of a big state.”

Things are dif­fer­ent now for Crist. When he hugged Obama in 2009, Crist was a Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernor about to be run over by the tea-party re­volu­tion. Now he’s a Demo­crat, try­ing to win back the gov­ernor’s of­fice after a failed run for the Sen­ate.

But things are dif­fer­ent for Obama, too. Demo­crats ran to­ward the new pres­id­ent in 2009. Now some of them are run­ning away. While Crist is em­bra­cing Obama all over again, two oth­er lead­ing Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates for gov­ernor in big swing states won by Obama — Mary Burke of Wis­con­sin and Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania — both de­clined to join the pres­id­ent when he vis­ited as part of a post-State of the Uni­on swing late last month. Two Demo­crat­ic sen­at­ors fa­cing tough reelec­tions, Mary Landrieu of Louisi­ana and Kay Hagan of North Car­o­lina, also skipped re­cent ap­pear­ances by Obama in their states, al­though Landrieu rode on Air Force One with the pres­id­ent. Alaska Demo­crat Mark Be­gich really spelled out his de­sire for dis­tance. “I don’t need him cam­paign­ing for me,” he said. “I need him to change some of his policies.”

Not Crist. “I’d be de­lighted to” cam­paign with him, he said. “I’m proud of him. I’m proud he’s my friend.”

There are few reas­ons why Crist may want to stay close to Obama. Flor­ida Demo­crats are eager to un­seat Re­pub­lic­an Gov. Rick Scott, but some re­main skep­tic­al of Crist, a Re­pub­lic­an-turned-in­de­pend­ent-turned-Demo­crat. Crist’s loy­alty to Obama tells Demo­crats he’s one of them — a stamp of ap­prov­al that a lifelong Demo­crat wouldn’t need. What’s more, Crist is fre­quently cri­ti­cized for chan­ging his po­s­i­tions on is­sues, in­clud­ing abor­tion, guns, and gay mar­riage, and run­ning away from Obama would look like just an­oth­er flip-flop.

Re­pub­lic­ans are de­term­ined to make the midterm a ref­er­en­dum on the pres­id­ent, so wheth­er can­did­ates ap­pear with Obama or not, they’re go­ing to be tagged as Obama Demo­crats. Crist fig­ures he might as well own it.

The oth­er pos­sib­il­ity is that Crist’s polit­ic­al weath­er vane is out of whack.

Back in 2006, on the eve of his elec­tion as gov­ernor, he de­clined to ap­pear at a North Flor­ida rally with an­oth­er un­pop­u­lar pres­id­ent, George W. Bush. “You chick­en­shit!” Bush ad­viser Karl Rove bel­lowed at him, ac­cord­ing to Crist’s new mem­oir. At that time, Bush’s na­tion­al ap­prov­al was at 38 per­cent. But Obama’s num­bers in Flor­ida are only slightly bet­ter, pegged at 42 per­cent ap­prov­al and 53 per­cent dis­ap­prov­al in the latest Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity poll. He’s un­der­wa­ter with wo­men, men, in­de­pend­ents, Re­pub­lic­ans, and white voters.

No won­der Flor­ida Demo­crat Alex Sink, who’s run­ning for Con­gress in a spe­cial elec­tion, spent more time in her latest cam­paign ad talk­ing about fix­ing Obama­care than singing its praises. “We need to keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong,” she says in the tele­vi­sion spot. “I’ll work with Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats for health care that’s af­ford­able and works for us.”

Even Obama re­cog­nizes he’s ra­dio­act­ive in some places these days, telling Demo­crat­ic sen­at­ors in a closed-door meet­ing last week that he “would not be of­fen­ded” if they pre­ferred to cam­paign without him.

Still, Crist en­thu­si­ast­ic­ally re­counts his de­cision to ap­pear with the pres­id­ent at a town hall in Fort My­ers in 2009 when he was tout­ing his eco­nom­ic-stim­u­lus plan. (“He hugged me and I hugged him, and that sent Marco Ru­bio in­to or­bit, ” Crist re­calls, re­fer­ring to his rival for the U.S. Sen­ate in 2010.) He’s also happy to talk about his de­cision as gov­ernor to ex­tend early vot­ing hours to handle the long lines lead­ing in­to Obama’s elec­tion in 2008. (“It’s nev­er been for me Right versus Left be­cause of my par­ents,” he said, “It’s al­ways been right versus wrong.”)

Demo­crat­ic strategist Steve Schale, who helped Obama win Flor­ida in 2008 and 2012, is among a num­ber of Obama team mem­bers work­ing for Crist, in­clud­ing poll­ster John An­za­lone and cam­paign man­ager Jim Mess­ina. And Schale says Crist’s long em­brace of the pres­id­ent is just fine by him.

“Frankly,” said Schale, “it is re­fresh­ing to see a politi­cian not look at a poll first to de­cide who their friends should be.”

What We're Following See More »
WEST WING REDUX
Allison Janney Takes to the Real White House Podium
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Carolyn Kaster/AP

STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
×