If I had a dollar for every question I've gotten about the Crist campaign, just in the last 96 hours, I wouldn't be driving a seven year old car with 130,000 miles. I can only imagine how many calls my GOP friends are getting.
The most recent frenzy is driven by three recent polls that show Rubio ahead anywhere from a few to a dozen points, once again turning both Tallahassee and Washington on its head. I even spent a good solid hour today beating down the rumor from my friends in the nation's Capitol that Crist was about to join the Democratic Party. Apparently, false speculation that Vice President Joe Biden and Governor Crist had dinner last week fueled that rumor.
Adam Smith and Beth Reinhard today wrote a solid article about Crist's current fortunes. It is a must read and in it, the Governor talks about what he plans to do about it: focus on governing. Quite honestly, that isn't enough. I'd take it one step further.
So here it is Governor, my advice. Just two things:
1. Suspend your campaign.
Crist's own numbers show he has more than $6 million on hand, more than enough to run a strong primary. What Crist needs to do now is change people's perception, and he can only do that by being a strong leader. People like Crist personally, but he's never ditched the view that he's just another ambitious pol. In these economic times, that perception is certainly dogging him. So, Governor, be bold and call a press confernce to announce you are stepping off the campaign trail until the session is over and get to work running the state.
Now, surely some will compare it to McCain's ill-fated decision to 'suspend' his campaign in 2008, but the circumstances are totally different. First, McCain wasn't running the country and secondly, when he stepped off the trail to help save the economy, he did nothing to show he was a leader.
Go be the Governor now and make yourself not just relevant, but the leader of this state during its most trying times. America is looking for leaders, not politicians. You have a rare chance to redefine yourself as one of the former.
2. Be yourself.
Why did people flock to Barack Obama? He was different and authentic. These characteristics also drove Scott Brown to victory in Massachusetts.
Right now, Governor Crist is never going to out right Rubio, and he should stop trying. He is who he is, and he should embrace it. His best shot, quite honestly, is the right becoming concerned that Rubio simply is too far to the right to win. So stop trying to be the "real conservative," it clearly isn't playing and its not going to work. So Governor, go be yourself. It has served you well throughout your career, so why not just embrace your brand?
The Hard Truth
As Smith and Reinhard said, the problem for Crist is he doesn't have a lot of good options. The economy is largely out of his control, and that is impacting him more than any ideological issue. Moreover, the simple fact that Rubio leads Crist by 50 points in one poll among voters who have an opinion about both is very bad news. But in that poll, 60% of Republicans still approve of his job as Governor, another reason for him to focus solely on governing.
Frankly, he could do these things and still lose. But on the flip side, he is losing, so why not mix it up?
And for all you disaffected Crist GOP voters who believe that Rubio is to far to the right for your liking, I have a suggestion for you: get to know my friend Kendrick Meek!