How Barack Obama -- Charlie Crist's Greatest Weapon -- Will Ruin Crist

By now, it's pretty clear what's to happen. Charlie Crist is running for governor -- and, in a way, this has been obvious for some time. But it only became inescapably obvious a few days after Election Day. When Crist got a telephone call.

It was from President Barack Obama. He thanked Crist -- who helped deliver Florida to the president over weeks of frenetic campaigning -- but then asked more of Crist. "He said, sounds like we have some voter problems down there; Is there anyway you can help with that," Crist said the president remarked.

Let's be clear about one thing. The president of the United States is most definitely not calling Alex Sink.

And while it's still unknown whether Crist's relationship with the president will translate to votes, it does endow Crist with something he can't claim on his own. Validation.

No matter what, Crist will take a lot of punishment in this election. Sink will castigate him for all of his former Republican policies. And, if he gets past her, Scott will maul him for all of his flip-floppery. Sid Dinerstein, Palm Beach County Republican Chair, says the Republicans already have their early ads planned against Crist.

But Barack Obama -- maybe only Barack Obama -- can legitimize Crist's sincerity. Otherwise, his switch to the Democrats looks as disingenuous as his tan. (And probably is.)

Yet, Crist's ties to the president are complicated. Perhaps more complicated than even Crist realizes. Crist has incurably latched his fate to Obama's. If the president fails, so does Crist. The president won't campaign much for Crist if he's unpopular, and Crist would be lost. His most important weapon left impotent.

So, Crist is probably thinking: If the economy surges, and Obama looks magnanimous, all is well in House of Crist. Not quite.

If Barack Obama succeeds, so does Florida. We see it in the employment numbers. When the overall unemployment drops, so does Florida's. When the overall employment climbs, so does Florida's. When housing overall does well, Florida homes sell like gangbusters.

If Barack Obama succeeds, and the nation rebounds -- so does Rick Scott. Scott will take all the street cred, and remind people that Crist's affable tenure was, in fact, a time of unemployment and other scary things. Let's not forget that under Crist, Florida's unemployment rate hit a 35-year high.

All of this leaves Crist in a difficult position. He needs the president. But the president's successes -- which will trickle down to Florida -- may ultimately sink him.

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Terrence McCoy