Broward News

Crist Chooses Popularity Over Politics, Vetoes Bill on Teacher Merit Pay

Everywhere Charlie Crist goes on the campaign trail lately, the teachers have him. Yesterday stalked him all the way to his office.

And today, he vetoed Senate Bill 6, a piece of legislation that gave him an opportunity to prove with action what he's expressed only in words: that he's a true, die-hard Republican. The Republican argument is that Senate Bill 6 is tough love for teachers, holding them more accountable -- a buzzword they love -- for student performance while also providing a way to justify cuts they want to make to education (though they're less eager to talk about that aspect of it).

So Crist's decision comes as a bit of a surprise, given his eagerness to prove that the Marco Rubio campaign is wrong to brand him as a RINO -- Republican in Name Only.

Crist loves being a Republican. But mostly, he just loves being loved.

You can just hear the internal conflict every time he responded to a question about the bill, like this moment last week:

Poor Crist is so used to issues where the smart political move is also the popular move. But this time, those two factors were at odds. On one side, you had the lobbyists, the fellow Republican legislators, and Crist's inner circle, which is trying to revive his listing Senate campaign. On the other, the legions of people -- alas, the kinds who vote Democrat -- whose approval Crist craves.

Maybe Crist vetoed the bill because he knows that signing it would have been unlikely to vault him closer in the Senate race. Or maybe a guy who loves telling people what they want to hear just couldn't resist making the popular decision.

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Thomas Francis