Another GOP Straw Poll, Another Defeat For Charlie Crist
Florida's Hernando County, a poor (median income- $32,572), very white rural area north of Tampa-- economically dominated by WalMart and limestone mining-- is the latest to deal Charlie Crist a stunning blow. Last week Marco Rubio won the local Republican Party's official straw poll-- by 46-0! Rubio, a right-wing extremist, is just kicking Crist's ass up Florida's Atlantic Coast, across the Panhandle (especially across the Panhandle) and down the state's economically hard-hit Gulf Coast. Despite polls that show Crist untouchably ahead for both the primary and the general election, Republican Party activists just have no faith in him, no interest in him-- and they just love the teabagging Rubio. This is especially true in the counties time left behind.
[Andy] Tuck is party chairman in rural, conservative Highlands County. In July, his party executive committee held a straw vote between Crist and his primary opponent, Marco Rubio.
Rubio won 75-1.
Republican activists everywhere in the state are rebelling against the conventional wisdom that Crist has it all sewn up. Many agree with Andy Tuck's assessment that the Republican primary may be tougher for Crist than appears on the surface. "He is not the conservative Republican he needs to be to win this race."
But the Tallahassee GOP Establishment collectively chuckles and scoffs at the grassroots nuts in the little rural counties like Hernando, Gilchrist, Pasco and Highlands. One Crist backer, state Senator Mike Fascano, sneered contemptuously at Rubio's victories. "I haven't been to a Republican executive committee meeting in years, and many other elected Republicans in Pasco haven't either," he said. "The silent majority doesn't go to party meetings or read blogs." He and other supporters of the governor point to their own polling data that shows Crist with a 67% approval rating among Republican voters statewide and chalk up Rubio's wins to a bunch of wild-eyed extremist meth freaks listening to too much Limbaugh and watching too much Glenn Beck.
But those extremist meth freaks are the base of the GOP in the 5th Congressional District-- which has more people on Social Security and welfare than any other district in the U.S.-- and the district's congresswoman, a bizarre extremist but not a meth freak herself, Ginny Brown-Waite, has actually endorsed Rubio against Crist, as did Congressman Jeff Miller, the furthest right of the Florida congressional delegation, Mike Huckabee, Jeb Bush Jr., purportedly out of prison now, and the most far right member of the U.S. Senate, SC secessionist Jim DeMint.
Brown-Waite, who isn't on drugs, explained why she decided to endorse Rubio even while the 3 far right Cuban-American congressmembers from Miami-Dade signed on to the Crist team:
Originally, I had not planned to endorse in this race, but as the challenges facing our nation and Florida grow more severe, times demand someone willing to make hard choices. Washington needs leaders with solid conservative beliefs and the courage to do the right thing. Marco Rubio does not try to be all things to all people. Like me, what you see is what you get. Marco Rubio is the consistent, principled conservative we need to provide a check and balance on the Obama-Reid agenda.
More bad news coming Crist's way:
• Pinellas County Republicans will hold a straw poll, likely in December. Coming in Crist's home county, it will have huge symbolic significance.
• In Volusia County, the party executive committee voted last month to censure Crist for choosing Democrats for appointive offices and also for supporting the president's stimulus program.
• A censure move in Palm Beach County failed in a tie; party leaders staved it off by promising a straw vote in October.
• In Broward County, party leaders held off a straw vote by promising personal appearances by Crist and Rubio.
Broward Chairman Chip Lamarca said he thinks Crist would win a straw vote in his county, but Palm Beach Chairman Sid Dinerstein expects Rubio to win his easily.
Rubio has been forcing Crist to move further and further away from the mainstream and into wacky Republican territory. Don't expect to see Crist screaming "Liar, you were born in Indonesia" at Obama in public anytime soon, but he has reversed himself on climate change and offshore drilling, smart moves in a GOP primary but not good for a general election where Democrats, independents and moderates will decide who the next U.S. senator will be. The Democrats, who have an extremely weak candidate in Kendrick Meek, know the only way they can win the seat is if Rubio is the Republican nominee.
UPDATE: While Florida Republicans Devour Each Other Politically...
The state spirals down economically. In the still out-of-control foreclosure debacle, 6 out of the nation's 10 hardest-hit congressional districts are in Florida, including FL-05, where Rubio is picking up so much support (including batty Congressmember Ginny Brown-Waite). Worst hit in the whole country, though, is FL-14 (Ft. Myers), the district represented by Connie Mack. And on the health insurance front, the number of uninsured Floridians has jumped from 2.8 million to 3.6 million while one Bush was in DC and another was in Tallahassee. The portion of workers in Florida without insurance has increased from 20.9% in 2001 to 24.5% in 2008. Today Vice President Biden met with state Insurance commissioners and spoke about the burden of health insurance premium increases on Florida families. Only Texas has a worse rate of uninsured than Florida, and Mario Diaz-Balart's and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's districts are worse than anything in Teaxs-- with about a third of their constituents under 65 having no health coverage whatsoever.
Health insurance premiums for American families continue to skyrocket. In the past year, the national average annual family premium for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to $13,375 in 2009-- a shocking 5.5 percent increase during a recession when inflation actually fell by 0.7 percent.
"The status quo of rising premiums is simply unsustainable," said Vice President Biden, "for families, for businesses, for state budgets, and for our national economy."
In every state, premiums have increased far faster than wages and are consuming increased portions of family budgets. The White House's analysis found that families’ premiums in Florida went up 121 percent, outpacing wage growth of just 43 percent.
Neither Crist nor Rubio has anything constructive to say to address the health care crisis in Florida. But of course each is putting all his energy into destroying the other politically.