The wild card in the race for the Republican nomination to U.S. Senate is the endorsement of Jeb Bush. To get a read on whether he's leaning toward Charlie Crist or Marco Rubio, I consulted a source who -- in exchange for his or her candor -- we will simply call a high-ranking Bush associate. My sense is that this source speaks for a great many Floridians who have fond memories of Bush's time in the governor's office and in whose eyes Crist's tenure has been very frustrating by comparison. From the source:
Jeb Bush always put the state first, then the party and his own ambition last. Toward the end of his term, he was being recruited to run for the U.S. Senate, and he turned it down because he wanted to finish his term strong. He could have been the NFL commissioner, but he turned it down because he wanted to finish strong. You can't even begin to compare Jeb's passion for Florida and his respect for the office of Governor with Charlie Crist. Jeb didn't see the office as a stepping stone. He saw it as an opportunity to make meaningful changes and he worked until the clock ticked to zero.
All of us had very high hopes for Charlie when he became Governor. But the minute he abandoned the principles he ran on, and deliberately poked Jeb in the eye every chance he got, it became clear what his goals were: Govern to the left, play to the polls, and be the nice guy.
He never counted on a primary, and so now he doesn't know what to do. He's abandoned his republican base. Most super-voter Republicans have already made up their mind about Charlie, and I'm not certain he could even be re-nominated for governor today.
To be clear, I think most people would have more respect for him if he ran on those positions and acted with some principle. Where Charlie has lost this thing is that everyone knows he has no principles. He nuances everything he says, in the hope no one will call him out on it. He appoints his bag man to the U.S. Senate, and then uses that position to raise money at the very time our nation is facing major domestic and foreign threats. That appointment should have been one of the most cherished things he'd do as governor, and he just simply blew it.
His attacks against Rubio will begin, but what Charlie fails to understand is this is about him and his track record. He proposed a budget that spends more money than everyone knew he had, and when the legislature cut the budget to a more realistic number based on revenue, he claimed credit for cutting the budget. He embraces the stimulus, and then claims he didn't endorse it. He embraces cap and trade and then runs away from it the minute he has a primary. Why not just own your position, and defend it?
Because Charlie Crist has never done that. He's never staked out a tough position and fought for it. He finds where the parade is going, and gets in front of it. That's been his whole career, and now its on full display.
The media have given Charlie the benefit of the doubt thus far. But the doubletalk and backtracking have finally caught up with him.
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There are already subtle signs that Bush is going to endorse Rubio. In my view, the only way that doesn't happen is if the Rubio campaign implodes. If that campaign continues to gain momentum -- and it's shown no signs of slowing -- the Bush endorsement will be a mere formality. It's sure to give Rubio a bump that can eat away Crist's 20-point lead in the polls. And if Bush is willing to hit the stump for Rubio, then Crist is really in trouble.