Howler of the Night From Politico: Charlie Crist As a Former 'Rock-Ribbed Conservative'

August 26th, 2014 11:45 PM

Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie won the state's Democratic gubernatorial primary tonight.

In his writeup on Crist's defeat of an overmatched challenger, the Politico's James Hohmann wrote that "Only four years ago Crist was a governor who had run for office as a rock-ribbed conservative." That wording is a bit too clever. One might argue that Hohmann is merely claiming that Crist ran as a "conservative" in 2006 on the coattails Jeb Bush's successful and largely conservative previous eight years as Florida's governor. But Crist certainly didn't flaunt the label, and by mid-2007 it was obvious that he was governing as a "Schwarzenegger-style Republican moderate" — making it clear that any campaign claim to being genuinely conservative was a false front. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):

Florida Democrats nominate Charlie Crist

Florida Democrats nominated Charlie Crist for governor on Tuesday, an unsurprising but nonetheless remarkable victory for the former Republican.

The 58-year-old’s easy win over former state Sen. Nan Rich in Tuesday’s primary caps a stunning turnaround. Only four years ago Crist was a governor who had run for office as a rock-ribbed conservative. In the 1990s, he’d embraced the nickname “Chain-Gang Charlie” as a tough-on-crime state senator.

... Some Democrats were slow to embrace an old nemesis as their standard-bearer, but the party’s campaign strategists recognized that Crist represented their best bet to defeat his polarizing Republican successor, Rick Scott, as governor.

... Florida chief financial officer Jeff Atwater, a surrogate for Scott, congratulated Crist on his win in the Democratic primary with an attack.

“Being Governor requires one to make tough decisions. When Charlie Crist was asked to step up and make the hard decisions, he walked away,” Atwater said, a reference to his decision to run for Senate instead of a second term as governor. “Charlie Crist walked away in our toughest hour and didn’t give a care in the world about suffering Floridians because he thought it was in the best interest of his political future to avoid the hard times and hard decisions.”

Scott echoed that sentiment in a separate statement, calling Crist “a governor who sent our state into a tailspin.”

How much of a tailspin? Hohmann wouldn't tell us, so yours truly will:


Florida's economy lost over 900,000 payroll jobs during Crist's first three years in office — over 11 percent of its workforce. With the exception of Nevada and perhaps one or two other very small states, that's the worst percentage of job bleed in the entire nation during that time — even worse than Michigan's and Ohio's. The Sunshine State's economy began losing jobs before most of the rest of the nation, while job gains during the first year after the early-2010 trough were weak.

Under Scott, Florida has, in one of the nation's better performances, picked up almost 600,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate has dropped from a Crist-era high of 11.4 percent to 6.2 percent. Judging on employment results alone, it seems beyond amazing that Crist is even competitive, let alone that he appears to have chance of winning. One suspects that without the active assistance of Florida's media establishment, Crist wouldn't have a prayer.

Crist's "Schwarzenegger-style" governing made him an easy target for a mostly genuine conservative Marco Rubio in the 2010 U.S. Senate contest. In a desperate move, Crist became an independent when it became obvious that the GOP Senate primary would be a wipe-out (some "rock-ribbed conservative"). Rubio handily won the general election over Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek by a stunning 19 points and 29 points, respectively.

Jim Hohmann's report is a weak effort whose primary purpose appears to be to give aid and comfort to Democrats in their attempt to unseat the supposedly "polarizing" Rick Scott. When was the last time the establishment press called any Democrat "polarizing"?

Cross-posted at