FL-Sen: Crist Makes Politically Worst Possible Pick to Succeed Martinez – UPDATED x2

To fill the U.S. Senate vacancy caused by the resignation of unpopular Republican Mel Martinez, Gov. Charlie Crist has selected his former Chief of Staff Georgie Lemieux.  Politically speaking, this is the worst possible selection Crist could have made.First, by appointing a close confidante and former top aide, Crist came as close as possible to simply appointing himself (to the job for which he is running) without actually appointing himself.  Lemieux even described his political ideology as being a “Charlie Crist Republican.”  No doubt, Lemieux will be seen as nothing more than Crist’s puppet for the sixteen months that he serves.  Maybe this is Crist’s goal – to point to Lemieux (who will likely vote more like a conservative Republican than a moderate one for cosmetic purposes) and say, “See, he voted conservatively, so I will, too.”  Still, choosing a puppet Senator will not go over well.

Second, by passing on perceived frontrunner and former U.S. Attorney Bobby Martinez, Crist has taken the seat held by the Senate’s only Hispanic Republican out of Hispanic hands.  Hispanic voters, Cuban voters especially, may see this as an affront and shift their attention to Crist’s Cuban-American challenger in the 2010 Republican Senate primary, the more conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

Third, by passing on State Senator (and former state House Speaker) Dan Webster, Crist thumbed his nose at Florida’s Christian conservative population.  With conservatives already unhappy with Crist, this snub could further push conservatives toward giving Marco Rubio a good long look.

Fourth, it appears that Lemieux himself is no arch-conservative, based on a 1998 questionnaire that Lemieux filled out as a state House candidate.  Lemieux’s positions included:

Gay rights: Supported gay adoption and same-sex benefits. Opposed gay marriage but said voters should have the right to decide via referendum.

A real conservative would say no to same-sex couples adopting, no to same-sex couples receiving benefits, and no to even having a referendum on same-sex marriage.

Oil drilling: Opposed drilling off Florida’s coast, a proposal again under consideration.

That doesn’t sound like “Drill, baby! Drill!” to me.

Taxes: Advocated tax reform. Favored a review of, and possible elimination of, sales tax exemptions that favored businesses.

Uh oh!  Sounds like someone is anti-business.  After all, the repeal of a sales tax exemption is the same as a tax hike.

Gun control: Supports the right to bear arms with “reasonable restrictions on gun shows.” “Florida’s laws need to be changed so that the same waiting periods apply to gun shows as gun shops.”

To the NRA set, there is no such thing as a “reasonable restriction” on the right to bear arms.  If Lemieux wants to impose a waiting period on gun shows, well, then he must want to take away all guns.

These are Lemieux’s self-espoused moderate positions on key issues.  By hand-picking Lemieux for the Senate vacancy, Crist endorses these moderate views.  For a guy working so hard to ingratiate himself to conservatives, Crist has just set his political cause back quite a bit and has empowered Marco Rubio to gain even more traction with Florida’s conservatives – who will decide the Republican Party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2010.

By picking Lemieux, Crist has given himself nothing but political headaches – choosing a puppet, snubbing Hispanic Republicans, and passing over real conservative options for a moderate (a “Charlie Crist Republican”).  Crist has given his own 2010 Republican Senate primary opponent, Marco Rubio, a great deal of traction to gain ground against Crist among primary voters.  For Crist, Lemieux is the worst possible pick he could have made, politically speaking.

UPDATE: I almost missed this nugget from The Hill (emphasis added by me):

LeMieux, who is rumored to be aiding the selection process behind the scenes, could cause some controversy, given his close ties to Crist.

Gov. Crist and Senate appointee-designate Lemieux would be wise to address these rumors.  Of course, there’s nothing illegal about Lemieux aiding the selection process that resulted in his own selection (cough, Cheney!, cough), but it is very unseemly and will only serve to further inflame conservatives that are already unhappy with Crist.

UPDATE 2: What do Crist’s Senatorial campaign opponents think of the appointment?

Marco Rubio (R):

“This is a disappointing appointment for Florida. George LeMieux is a talented political operative and the governor’s best friend, but that doesn’t make him the right choice to represent Florida in the Senate. Governor Crist had a wealth of consistent and principled conservative candidates to choose from, all of whom would have been a reliable check and balance on the excesses of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda.”

Kendrick Meek (D):

Governor Crist was afforded a high responsibility with this appointment. Instead, he treated this process like a mockery, politicizing his selection by flying around the state at taxpayers’ expense, touring major media markets and drawing this selection out. Well respected Floridians with a wealth of elected service experience … were in a position to hit the ground running if appointed, but that possibility is now nonexistent. By appointing George LeMieux, Governor Crist’s inner circle was rewarded with a U.S. Senate seat and Floridians are left lacking the representation they deserve”

Wasn’t the Titanic supposed to be unsinkable as well?

The longer this goes on, the more I feel like shouting “Captain, iceberg ahead!”

Check out Blue Arkansas:

by: ARDem @ Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 16:37:15 PM CDT

That might be

a bit too optimistic. Usually, I like to look on the bright side of things, but until I see Crist’s poll numbers drop, and badly, I am going to focus my attention elsewhere. Meek would be a great senator, don’t get me wrong, but I need proof he can beat Crist, or Rubio, as the case may be.

by: NVdem @ Sun Aug 30, 2009 at 22:18:21 PM CDT

I get where you’re coming from.

But there are things besides polls to consider.  Polls only change in reaction to changing dynamics, be they created by the candidate or outside forces, so I try to get an idea of what’s happening in reality that will change perceptions ahead of time.  Sometimes I’m wrong/sometimes I’m right, but either way here’s my thinking.Crist is leaving Florida in the middle of a budget crisis.  As I understand it, the whole state budget is set to collapse with important priorities being underfunded and too many goodies going off to big money special interests.  That’s the gist of it anyway, I admit I’m no expert on the details.  Either way, the situation could well transpire even before next years primary (which if I recall is fairly late in year) and could alter the dynamics of both the senate race and the governor’s election.  Crist will wear that around his neck, and it will drag him down like an anchor, especially since he’s abandoning his post and looking painfully like an absentee governor these days.

Further, Rubio seems to be gaining consistent momentum in the primary, which is likely to be low turnout and probably dominated by the far right.  Crist has made some effort to appeal to the right, but it ain’t working-that crowd is vengeful and mistrusting to a fault and they’re not going to support Crist.

Admittedly, Crist is a strong candidate in the general election.  But Meek has proven to be surprisingly feisty as of late, practicing an aggressive brand of campaigning much different from the caricature he’s lampooned as on many blogs.  He’s also hired some top talent from the Obama campaign (which, you’ll recall, won Florida last year with a similar candidate), has done some big time fundraising and is putting together a pretty impressive organization for getting the troops out.

Mark my words, this one will tighten, I promise you.  I could well be wrong, it’s happened before and if that comes to pass it won’t bother me in the least, but I still think Crist has made a serious miscalculation on this race and could be set up for defeat.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

by: ARDem @ Sun Aug 30, 2009 at 22:37:29 PM CDT

I love

your constant positive thinking and thoughtful analasis. Reading your comments frequently makes me feel more positive. Keep it up, I get this from my mother, who insisted that McCain would just steal the election anyway.By the way, I start college on Wendsday, so I might be limited in my comments, although, in my opinion, there is always time for politics!

by: NVdem @ Mon Aug 31, 2009 at 00:06:50 AM CDT

You’ll have time for politics.

College was my time to thrive, politically and otherwise.  Trust me, you’ll love it. I’m glad I can inspire optimism.  Remember though, I make no claims to being right, just claims to being confident.  Still, I’ve got a suspician that things are going to turn out much better than what a lot of us Democrats have been thinking, though it’s not going to happen if we don’t work our asses off for it.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

Click here for the new senate guru blog…

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