Friday, July 31, 2009

A Fight For The Soul Of The Florida Republican Party: Crist vs Rubio


"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross"

Earlier today we talked a little about Florida in terms of fanatic anti-government state legislators attempting to pass a constitutional amendment that would nullify any national health care reform that passes. Parts of Florida-- the parts visitors to Miami and Orlando and the beaches never see-- are as backward and reactionary as the worst areas of Alabama and Oklahoma. And it seems not many people around the country are aware of the epic battle over the Republican nomination for open U.S. Senate seat looming there between mainstream conservative, Charlie Crist and the darling of the extremist brat pack Marco Rubio.

The dilemma for the Republican Party is that true believer Rubio represents the purity of the extreme right positions. He would fit right in with the 3 obstructionist Jims: DeMint, Inhofe and Bunning, the apostles of a creed that is willing-- even eager-- for America to fail so that Obama's presidency is a failure. Rubio polls extremely well with the Republican base-- at least when they know who he is and what he stands for. Charlie Crist is the governor, a well known political figure (also a barely concealed closet queen) who has been Attorney General and is now Governor. He was recruited by the NRSC as the only chance they saw to hold the Senate seat being abandoned by Mel Martinez. You see, Rubio could easily appeal to Republicans in a primary; he's what many of them are all about. But he would probably not be able to win a general election, even against the weakest of Democrats (which is exactly who the Democrats have running in Kendrick Meek-- but that's another story for another day). Crist is looked at by the GOP Establishment as a less than perfect Republican-- he gets along well with President Obama and endorsed the Stimulus package and mostly embraces the concept of government working for the benefit of citizens-- but as one who can win a general election with ease.

Rubio has been garnering endorsements from the far right nationally-- Jim DeMint, Dick Armey, Mike Huckabee-- and has been doing well in straw polls among the grassroots and teabaggers across the state. Jeb Bush Jr. has endorsed him-- a signal that the Bush clan approves of his hard right stands. He has all the momentum-- even if Crist has all the money. In fact, Rubio is going broke... fast. The NRSC and the Florida Republican Party want him out of the race and they're using a carrot (the Attorney General slot) and stick (drying up donations) approach to pressure him. The latter, at least, is working; he had to let his campaign manager go and put his chief fundraiser on as a part-time employee. Down but not out.

The tweet above is another in a long line of reports from the frontlines that shows-- despite the financial disparity and the general polling-- the right-wing grassroots wants Rubio, not Crist. He won the Highlands County Republican Party Executive Committee straw poll... 66-1. Rubio owns the hearts and souls of the Republican hard-core but he doesn't seem able to get past that. He forced Crist to come out against Sonia Sotomayor to please the wingnuts, even though it is expected to hurt Crist in the general election-- in a state with a large and growing non-Cuban Hispanic population.

Local Republican politicians are having a hard time. They know the activist base is emotionally committed to Rubio. These are the people who are incensed over Crist's perceived slight of Sarah Palin and they are adamant that "their politicians" endorse Rubio. Right-wing Congressman Jeff Miller in the panhandle endorsed Rubio. Meanwhile, in Rubio's own backyard, the gangster Diaz-Balart brothers endorsed Crist, joining Congressmen Connie Mack IV and Vern Buchanan. Most political leaders in Florida feel certain that Rubio will, despite his protestations to the contrary, drop out of the Senate race and run for Attorney General (unless Crist has a devastating gay sex scandal).

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