In a U.S. Senate race that has already had so many spectacular plot twists, can anyone blame me for hoping that the biggest shocker is yet to come? But for the Crist Comes Outta the Closet meme to take hold, it will take some brave pundits besides me to give him a helpful nudge.
So with that in mind, I phoned two of the bravest ones in my Rolodex: Former State Sen. Steve Geller and the Prince of Palm Beach County politics, campaign strategist Andre Fladell.
I had particularly high hopes for Geller, the South Broward Democrat who, after all, is a friend of Crist's. But Geller told me, "As far as I know, Charlie is not gay. I know what Bob Norman reported, but I don't have any personal knowledge... I have never been in [Crist's] bedroom."
Here Geller corrected himself. "Actually, I have been in his bedroom, but that's when he was in college and living in the Pike [fraternity] house." Wait... what?
Oh, it's nothing. Geller's only point is that he knew Crist from their college days and that during that time, "he would go out on weekends with beautiful girls," says Geller. "Do I know whether they fooled around? No, I don't."
Maybe Fladell can be some help. "The gay thing, to me, is not going to happen," he said. "And it's irrelevant if it does."
So... you're telling me there's a chance?
Well, no. Fladell's point is that the rumors of Crist's being gay had little if any impact on the governor's race in 2006 and his coming out of the closet would be a similar nonfactor in 2010. In short, Fladell doesn't see the same "game-changer" potential that I do.
As I explained in my previous post, the Great Uncloseting is a strategy that Crist could deploy if by fall he's trailing by several points in the polls and a variety of less dramatic moves failed to provide a boost.
Geller, who has officially given his endorsement to Democrat frontrunner Kendrick Meek, thinks that the first part of that hypothetical is plausible. "Charlie's problem is if Kendrick comes on, so that six weeks before the election the polls are divided one-third for each candidate," says Geller. "Then the closer you get to the election, people will come home to their party, whether that's Republican or Democrat, meaning an independent like Crist loses on both sides."
And meaning that Crist throws the Hail Mary pass and says he's gay, hoping it gives him decisive votes from social liberals?
No, says Geller (because he doesn't think Crist is gay).
To which I say: He doesn't have to be! Crist has already changed his political party to gain an advantage in this Senate race. Why can't he just change his sexual orientation -- publicly, at least? (Obviously, this would have the potential for making Crist a closeted heterosexual, but whatever.)
What do you think, Geller? "Do I think he should pretend to be gay if he's not?" Geller asked. "No, I don't think that's the best idea."
Since I had these fellows on the phone anyway, I figured I'd hit them up for some slightly more serious analysis of the race that has the whole world watching.
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Fladell disagrees with Geller's view that when it comes down to the campaign's final weeks, voters will drift back to the traditional parties. "In the absence of Joe Lieberman and in the absence of what we've seen in the past four years, that was that way it was," says Fladell, but he insists that the modern media has dramatically changed the political game, fostering a cynicism in voters toward both political parties (like Lieberman took advantage of in his own Senate race), opening the way for an independent candidacy.
"I think Charlie Crist has found the perfect environment in which to see if the middle holds," Fladell says. "There's an opportunity for Crist to pick up a vote from people who want to express their disappointment in the current system."
In Geller's view, Marco Rubio is the Senate candidate who has peaked to early and who will have a hard time keeping pace as the race enters its final stretch. "Because of Marco Rubio's involvement in the tea party -- he's their posterboy -- I think the majority of Florida will find him too conservative," says Geller. "I think either Kendrick or Charlie -- whoever is stronger on October 1 -- will begin stealing votes from Marco."
Despite Geller's plans to cast his own ballot for Meek, he says, "I feel bad for Charlie -- because two years ago whe seen as a rising star, a potential vice presidential candidate. But the Republican Party has gone through a period of purging its moderates. What has happened to Charlie, the way for him to win, is to say 'If you're tired of partisanship and if you want someone who will represent the best idea rather than a party, that's me.'"