Crist: "The Man Who Can Do Nothing Right"
Mark Lane: "Recall that when he ran for governor in 2006, Charlie Crist was considered as a vague lightweight with a love of vaporously symbolic, law-and-order-sounding nonissues. A nice guy out of his depth."
After running flawless campaigns against Republican Tom Gallagher and Democrat Jim Davis, Crist was transformed into a universally acknowledged political genius. The man with perfect political pitch. A new-model Republican."Has Crist lost his mojo?". See also "" and "".
This reputation continued through a remarkable Era of Good Feeling in the first year of his term. A time when, just for exercise, he would start his day by running rings around then-House Speaker Marco Rubio. A time when his approval rating, a measured by the Quinnipiac University Poll, was reliably in the mid-60 percent range but spiked to a superhuman 73 percent.
But that was long, long ago.
Because over the past month, Crist has become, by political and media acclamation, The Man Who Can Do Nothing Right.
Howard Troxler: "Charlie is thinking: Darn that Marco! How did he get to be more conservative than I am? How did I get a job approval rating of 42 percent? I invented cheap populism and poll ratings! People have loved me better than the other candidate my whole career!"
Last week in Virginia and New Jersey, they elected Republican governors. The official explanation favored by conservatives is that conservatives are good and Obama is bad. On the other hand, the Republicans lost a race for Congress in New York, where the conservatives made a big deal out of driving a Crist-type candidate out of the race so a "real" conservative could run. But you should just forget that loss. Remember the main point: conservatives, good, Obama (and non-conservative Republicans) bad."Weird statements show Gov. Charlie Crist is suffering a case of Marco-itis".
A level-headed person, not made giddy by Marco-mania, might remember that Charlie has $1 zillion in the bank and is trouncing Marco in the election polls and it will still take a miracle, or at least a nuclear intervention by Jeb Bush, for that to change.
Nonetheless, the current story line is that Marco has the big mo. So Charlie is off his game. He is acting goofy and saying pants-on-fire things.
He is trying to out-Marco Marco. But really, all he has to do is out-Charlie Marco.
William March: "Republicans say it's not a problem that they lost a New York special congressional election last week that was widely compared to Florida's U.S. Senate race. But Democrats, and even some GOP moderates, suggest it's a sign of divisiveness that could damage Republicans' chances in 2010." "New York GOP rift may be Fla. omen". Last week: "Tea Party Express Tour pushes Orlando stop to Thursday".
Gary Fineout: "Florida's Republican Party has splintered over everything from philosophy to questions over how the party is being run."
The divide goes beyond former House Speaker Marco Rubio's challenge to Gov. Charlie Crist in next year's primary for the U.S. Senate. There are also divisions over party leadership and party message that have resulted in the unusual sight of contested primaries in five statewide contests. Those factions include Crist loyalists, allies of Bush upset with Crist, as well as some who are loudly critical of Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer."Factions grapple for reins of GOP in Florida".
While tensions have simmered since Crist veered onto a moderate, and occasionally populist, path starting from nearly his first day as governor, it was Crist's decision to forgo a second term and seek the U.S. Senate that has helped move these battles out into the open.
Mirroring a national debate, Florida's GOP is split over whether to move further to the right, embracing its conservative roots, or to expand its tent to reach more moderates and independents.
"Look out, Florida lawmakers"
The Miami Herald editorial board: "Look out, Florida lawmakers, four former governors are conducting a full-court press to convince you to resume funding the state's farsighted land-conservation program, Florida Forever. Legislators should heed the governors' call. Floridians need all the open space we can get." "Florida (gone?) Forever".
"'We got rid of Feeney for this?'"
"They carried signs that said, 'Kosmas is a traitor,' and 'We got rid of Feeney for this?'"
The decision of U.S. Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, to vote against the health care reform bill proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought more than 60 people to the intersection of City Center Parkway and Dunlawton Avenue on Saturday afternoon with protest signs.Many claimed to have been her supporters for years -- since she was first elected to the Florida House in 1996 and, especially since her unlikely victory unseating Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Winter Park."Kosmas draws protest for opposing health bill". See also "Kosmas, Boyd take a pass on health care as Democrats squeak by" and "Boyd in minority as health bill passes".
"I'm shocked and disappointed," said Paul Weiss, 64, of New Smyrna Beach, a Democratic precinct captain. "She's a disgrace to the Democratic Party." ...
Jack Wrightington, a member of the Southeast Volusia Democratic Club, said he's supported Kosmas for the past 12 years. But not any more.
"Some badly needed leadership"
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board: "Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum provided some badly needed leadership when he broke with fellow Republicans to file a lawsuit against online travel firms shortchanging state and local governments on hotel taxes. McCollum recognizes there is an enormous difference between enforcing the tax code fairly and raising taxes. It's too bad Gov. Charlie Crist and legislative leaders haven't acknowledged that distinction." "Standing for tax fairness".
"Orlando's $1.2 billion SunRail commuter train is grabbing headlines, but there might be another big winner as a special session on transportation issues becomes more likely: Tri-Rail, South Florida's 20-year-old train system." "SunRail momentum in Capitol could also float troubled South Florida rail system".
"Records show that since 1996, Rothstein and his law firm contributed at least $924,000 to 60 state candidates and state political committees and causes. He co-chaired fundraisers for President George W. Bush and several U.S. senators, including John McCain and Mel Martinez."
At political functions, Rothstein was larger than life, said Broward GOP chairman Chip LaMarca. He held a fundraiser for Crist earlier this year on the massive deck of his home overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway."Lawyer Scott Rothstein drained pals to live life of high roller".
Rothstein describes himself on his website as a "close friend and advisor'' to the governor, who appointed him to his Chairman's Council, a group of 25 business leaders. Last week, Crist also called Rothstein a "friend.''
"Seldom has a South Florida figure flown so high, so visibly, so fast – and plummeted so dramatically." "Rothstein's vast empire". Fred Grimm: "Rothstein story far too familiar".
"Boyd’s war chest brimming with health care cash".
"Anti-Charlie commercials write themselves"
Carl Hiaasen: "Senate candidate Marco Rubio, once a distant underdog to a popular governor with a huge war chest, suddenly finds himself contemplating something he didn't have two months ago: A chance."
The former state speaker of the House has always been a darling of the Republican right, but polls show that he's making inroads even with Charlie Crist's moderate base. "The best politicians money can buy".
If you were running Rubio's campaign these days, you could practically sit back and let the anti-Charlie commercials write themselves.
The first would be a montage of headlines about the governor's tainted fundraising.
There's Scott Rothstein, of course, the flashy Fort Lauderdale attorney who's now under federal investigation for running an alleged Ponzi scheme out of his law office. ...
This year Rothstein and his circle already raised roughly $80,000 for Crist's Senate campaign. The governor said he'll return only $9,600 given directly by Rothstein and his wife.
Crist says he has no special relationship with the lawyer, yet he attended Rothstein's wedding reception. Try donating $50 and see if Charlie shows up at yours.
Then there's Harry Sargeant III of Boca Raton, a college fraternity brother of Crist and the once-finance chairman of the state GOP.
A prolific political money pump, Sargeant shrunk from the public view in February after his initials turned up in a federal indictment accusing a Jordanian national of illegally steering campaign donations to Crist and three U.S. presidential candidates. ...
Last but not least is Alan Mendelsohn, the Broward ophthalmologist recently indicted on 32 counts for allegedly trying to peddle inside access to top lawmakers. ...
[L]ike Rothstein and Sargeant, he enjoyed a tighter relationship with Crist than Crist is eager to acknowledge. ...
Crist showed his gratitude by appointing the eye doctor to his gubernatorial transition team in 2007. When Mendelsohn's son applied to the University of Florida medical school, Charlie wrote a letter urging that the young man be admitted.
Crist's "nightmare scenario"
Randy Schultz: "In this business, you always get suspicious when the answer doesn't fit the question. For example:"
Gov. Crist went through a media interrogation last week about Scott Rothstein, the lawyer/con man who may have been Broward County's Bernie Madoff. He allegedly bilked investors and the firm's clients out of as much as $500 million. Rothstein liked to spend money on houses, cars and politicians. He helped raise nearly $700,000 for Gov. Crist's 2006 campaign.Schultz continues:
When any campaign nears the edge of Earth's orbit on spending, the potential for embarrassment also becomes stratospheric. With limits on individual contributions, the real money people are the "bundlers" who raise small fortunes from many donors. Hillary Clinton had Norman Hsu, who pleaded guilty to swindling investors out of $20 million.
Scott Rothstein was one of Gov. Crist's "bundlers." Bad as last week's story was, though, Gov. Crist could have had an easy answer:
"The reports are shocking. I didn't know anything about these allegations. Even the co-founder of their law firm says he didn't know Mr. Rothstein might have been misusing the money.
"If these allegations are true, Mr. Rothstein should be punished. I hope the victims get their money back. Speaking of money, I intend to return not just all the money I got from Mr. Rothstein, but all the money he raised for me, to avoid any perception that the money came with favors. I urge all other candidates and parties to do the same."
That would have been damage control with credibility. Everyone knows that fat-cat political patrons get special treatment, such as big appointments. If the people are qualified and no ethical or legal lines get crossed, no problem. Instead, during an interview with The Post's Michael Bender, Gov. Crist gave nothing like that answer. He said that he would return only the money from Rothstein, not the bundled contributions. He came off as defensive, which is the worst vibe to give off when dealing with bad news. Sure, the governor acknowledged, he attended Rothstein's wedding, just as Rothstein attended his wedding. But, hey, the governor didn't go to Rothstein's ceremony. He just went to the reception.
Here, though, was the telling exchange. Mr. Bender asked the governor if he would provide phone records to confirm that he was no closer to Rothstein than other state politicians. "Why would I do that?" Gov. Crist asked. "I told you. You can believe me." Mr. Bender is asking for the records. ...
why would Gov. Crist, through an off-key answer, invite speculation that there's more to the Rothstein story? One theory is that there is more. Gov. Crist usually says that even mega-donors get only "a thank-you note and good government." That wasn't the answer we heard last week.
Not long ago, Charlie Crist was the Republicans' future, a moderate with bipartisan support in a key swing state that President Obama carried. Gov. Crist had it all planned: an easy trip to the Senate, from which he would ponder his future while his successor made the unpopular hard budget choices Gov. Crist wants to avoid. Now, though, the governor has to worry about the nightmare scenario, in which Jeb Bush campaigns openly and often with Mr. Rubio. Mr. Bush made the former Florida House speaker the keeper of the Bush policy flame."Crist bundles his troubles".
Jebbie's education legacy
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: "Overall, Florida is near the bottom in high-school graduation rates, ranking 45th in the nation, according to the organization KidsCount, which measures an array of public policies relating to children, and lower by various other measures."
Bud Chiles, founder of the Worst to First Foundation, said in an Op-Ed piece earlier this year that in Florida we "invest far more in prisons than in high schools and colleges. Our pay for teachers, our pupil-teacher ratios, our funding for early education, after-school, K-12 and higher education is an embarrassment compared with any state.""Graduation rates must be improved".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "State legislators may have thought that they had done enough to stop the abuse of prescription painkillers. They haven't, so during the regular session that begins in March they should close loopholes that allow convicted felons to operate pain clinics." "Shut down the 'pill mills'".
Tea Bagger alert!
Beth Reinhard: "As an underdog U.S. Senate candidate courting the GOP's conservative wing, Marco Rubio takes a hard-line position against illegal immigration: no amnesty. But as the powerful speaker of the Florida House, presented with a slew of bills aimed at curbing illegal immigration, he didn't put a single proposal up for a vote. " "Rubio's immigration stance faces scrutiny".
Myriam Marquez: " Come Wednesday, we won't have Manny Diaz to push around anymore. Not that Miami's outgoing mayor ever allowed himself to be pushed anywhere he didn't want to go." "Diaz changed Miami for the better".
"New financial burdens on students in economically dismal times"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Young or old, college students are slammed with onerous out-of-pocket expenses that exceed the out-of-pocket health costs of most working-age adults. The reason: textbooks."
The university system is getting the message. Without affordable textbooks, Florida's already diminishing claim to being one of higher education's more affordable states is further eroded. Textbook publishers defend their exorbitant prices the way pharmaceutical companies defend theirs. They say that high-quality, specialized products are expensive to research and produce, so the markup must be high. But just like pharmaceutical companies, textbook publishers charge much less for the very same product depending on where they sell it. The same textbook sold in, say, Mumbai or London will fetch a much higher price in a Daytona Beach college store."Textbook inflation".
But Florida's university system is at loggerheads with the state Legislature. Bright Futures scholarships used to cover the full tuition of high-performing students and provide an additional $600 a year for textbooks. Lawmakers started reducing that amount several years ago to save money, eliminating the stipend altogether last year for the unremarkable saving of $12.5 million. Lawmakers also have approved a plan by the state's 12 universities to add a fat tuition surcharge every year of 6 to 8 percent on top of regular tuition costs. Students must pay the surcharge whether they have a Bright Futures scholarship or not. It all amounts to considerable new financial burdens on students in economically dismal times.
"Through no fault of their own"
The Sun-Sentinel editorial board: "Legislature must fix foreclosure proceedings to help tenants".
The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "At this point, Florida Power & Light apparently will pay $500 an hour to have Bob Butterworth state the obvious: Over the past few months, through a series of clumsy moves, the state's largest investor-owned utility damaged its reputation and almost certainly its chance for a $1.2 billion rate increase." "Helping FPL see the light".