Remember that memorable photo-op of President Obama hugging Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist?
At the time, good old Charlie was an endangered species of moderate Republicans who endorsed Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill so he could sprinkle the candy to needy residents in the Sunshine state. Also at that time he was 30 points ahead in the polls to win Florida's U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez.
Oh, such happy days for Charlie who recently married and was endorsed routinely by one of the good old boys in the Republican hierarchy, Senate election campaign chairman John Cornyn of Texas.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the nation's capital. Republican conservatives and a surging Tea Party movement remembered that presidential embrace and just like that Crist found himself trailing in the polls, losing endorsements right and -- well right, anyway -- and presto! He's a dead man walking, politically speaking.
The upstart was -- is -- little known Mark Rubio, son of Cuban immigrants, whose street creds was Florida state House Speaker, fluent in Spanish, of course, and recipient in the beginning of an endorsement from some right-wing political group who loved his call to abolish taxes on capital gains, interest and death while wanting all children to inherit their hopes and dreams just as he has.
Before Crist realized he was being run over by an 18-wheeler, Republican big shots such as Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani were endorsing Rubio followed by Mitt Romney -- all former and perhaps for Romney future presidential candidates for the Grand Old Party.
John McCain early on endorsed Crist, but what the hell, he was returning the favor for Crist's endorsement of McCain during the 2008 Republican primary for president. In a gracious gesture, at least for now, Sarah Palin, McCain's vice presidential running mate, has held off endorsing, uh, her new found friend Rubio.
Add insult to injury, Cornyn's endorsement mysteriously vanished for Charlie as he learned unceremoniously from Ron Jesmer, the executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. I'll let Andrew Malcolm of the Los Angeles Times pick it from here. This is priceless:
To save face for Cornyn and attempt to pressure Crist, Jesmer, the executive director, sent out an unusual and unsolicited e-mail memo Monday noon to Republican strategists across the country, pronouncing Crist's Republican candidacy dead this time and urging everyone to convince the governor to drop out completely.
To ensure that the memo leaked immediately, Jesmer called it "a quick off-the-record assessment." That worked perfectly. Crist was forced to deny that such pressure would have any effect and said he was still considering his options.
Jesmer said the committee would support Rubio no matter what Crist did and added: "We have communicated this message indirectly (to Crist) and would have given it to the governor directly had he returned Senator Cornyn’s phone call.” Take that, you insolent governor who won't call back an important U.S. senator.
Crist now says he may run as an independent, a la Joe Lieberman who lost the Democratic reelection for senator in Connecticut but won the general election as a single guy.
The Florida primary is Aug. 24.
P.S. -- The Times Andrews noted the Republican shenanigans in Florida send a strong signal to Republican candidates and activists elsewhere about the strength of the conservative currents growing during this midterm election year -- and, if they are successful on Nov. 2, in the ensuing two years leading up to 2012.
I'll drink to that.
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