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Analysis: Florida Democrats putting their eggs in Charlie Crist’s (flawed) basket

Democrats are gambling that Crist won’t do something foolish or shameless before election day

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

More than 4.6 million registered Democrats call Florida home. Surely, in a pool of people that enormous, the party could have found somebody — anybody — to nominate for governor who is not as inherently flawed as Charlie Crist.CFP Facebook Mugshot

But what’s done is done. Democrats have given one of their prized political possessions to a man who has pulled off the hat trick of being a Republican, an independent and a Democrat in just four short years. Look in the dictionary under “political opportunist,” and you will find his uber-tanned countenance, smiling sweetly back at you.

Now, Democrats must hold their breath until November, hoping that Crist won’t do something foolish or shameless in the next three months that will ensure Governor Rick Scott’s re-election. Good luck with that.

Given Scott’s frequently turbulent tenure in Tallahassee, the governor should be in a lot more trouble than he is. Surely this should have been a race into which politically ambitious Democrats were anxious to plunge. But none of them were, and, as a result, this contest is, essentially, a dead heat, even though the Democrat should be well ahead.

Democrats may still believe that the divisive flavor of Scott’s first term will be enough to push Crist to victory, and the results in November may still prove them right. But an argument can also be made that they would be in better shape right now had they not nominated a man who has enough political baggage to fill all his overhead bins.

That was essentially the argument that Nan Rich made in the Democratic primary. Nobody listened to her. Her decades of service to the Democratic Party went unrewarded. Crist, who in comparison to Rich has been a Democrat for about 15 minutes, took the prize instead.

So what made Crist’s resurrection possible? In a word, money. He has the ability to raise a ton of it. Not as much as Scott, of course, who can also  just get out his hefty personal checkbook if need be. But Crist’s argument that he was person best equipped to defeat Scott apparently resonated with Democrats.

Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.

In any case, no other up-and-coming Democrats were willing to endure the prospect of facing big-spending Crist in the primary and, then, if successful, facing the bigger-spending Scott in the general election. The result? Crist is heading into the general election without having fought for the Democratic nomination, a fight that might have demonstrated whether he still has the political chops to go the distance.

If Crist loses in November, Florida Democrats — particularly those who view Scott as nothing short of diabolical — will be kicking themselves for the next four years. And Charlie Crist? Well, there’s a Senate race in 2016, and he hasn’t been a Libertarian yet.

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