Moderation Killed Charlie Crist's Career

When Charlie Crist officially leaves the Republican Party to run as an independent, he might as well watch his political career fade even further from sight in his rearview mirror. His moderate to liberal values have already distanced him from most conservatives. His departure from the Republican Party will seal his fate.

Other than President Obama, Crist runs a close second in the race for the fastest falling popularity poll numbers. When Crist won the Florida governor’s seat, he was put forth by some elite from the old guard Republican Party as the new face of the Party. The so-called new face of the Republican Party seemed to gain some temporary traction. Crist enjoyed soaring approval ratings. These ratings caused Crist to moderate his views even more. He appointed some liberal Democrats to office and made appointments merely to please certain segments irrespective of how ill-equipped the appointees might be for the job.

Crist then tried to ride the moderate McCain train, hoping he might become the next Vice President, or at least that he would gain valuable air time for another political foray. But riding the McCain train did not go well for Crist. In fact, it is because of politicians like Crist, who suffer from conservative laryngitis and whose conservative compass spins in circles, that the Republican Party suffered such a stunning defeat in 2008. Even some conservative and moderate counties in Florida voted for the most liberal president in American history. The Republican Party had lost its way and Crist was supposed to be the poster child of the new Party.

Notwithstanding the crushing defeat to Republicans in 2008, Crist continued to maintain decent poll numbers. He obviously did not learn the lessons of 2008. He continued to moderate his views. He even embraced President Obama on one of his stops through Florida to tout the Stimulus ballout plan. Yet, it was just this kind of big government philosophy that tarnished the legacy of George W. Bush and sank the Republican Party.

Crist was blind to all the signs. He even recruited well-known Democratic attorney John Morgan, who was one of the largest fundraisers for Barack Obama in the Sunshine State. But then a relatively unknown conservative south Florida state legislator by the name of Marco Rubio began to nip at the heels of Crist like a pesky canine. Crist, and the Republican old guard, were so above Rubio that they ignored him at first. Eventually the Chair of the state Republican Party tried to force the county Republican committees to endorse Crist in the primary, an unprecedented act which eventually led to an uprising and his eventual ouster.

Democratic fundraiser and Crist supporter John Morgan once boasted to the media that the race for Senate was over except for the swearing in ceremony. Morgan is no doubt now swearing in a way that he did not envision. Morgan, Crist, and the moderates in the Republican Party were blind to the handwriting on the wall. Conservative values were not rejected in the 2008 presidential race. Republicans who lost their conservative values were rejected in favor of Obama’s flowery rhetoric.

Now that Marco Rubio has become a sort of rock star among conservatives, Crist finds himself in a similar position to that of Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Knowing that his long political career would end in the Republican Primary against a conservative opponent, Specter switched to the Democratic ticket. It now looks like Spector’s career will end nonetheless. So, like Specter, Crist did not want to go down to an early defeat in the Republican Primary, a fate that is certain. So, Crist decides to change parties to independent. But, who does Crist think will support him? The Democrats already have an African-American candidate. Crist may get some but not many Democratic votes in that contest.

Conservative Republicans and Tea Party people will not support Crist. He might get a few moderates, but I suspect so will Rubio. In fact, most people will become very upset at Crist for his mid-race betrayal. Senators Mitch McConnell and John McCain will withdraw their endorsement. Former Senator Connie Mack has resigned as Crist’s campaign manager. Donors are demanding the return of their contributions, a measure that will further damage the shrinking campaign war chest of the once popular governor.

The people want a leader who will tell the truth. Just a few weeks ago on "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace," Crist was asked several times whether he would leave the Republican Party to run as an independent. Several times he said no. Crist’s change of mind and parties will haunt him and accelerate the demise of his political career. John Morgan was right about one thing, Crist’s race for the Senate is over but for the swearing in ceremony. The problem for Crist is the ceremony will not be for him. In the end Crist will lose and conservative values will win.

Mathew Staver is founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of the Liberty University School of Law.

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