The Crist/Rubio race for the Senate in Florida goes right to the heart of what is most at issue for the Republican party.
Grassroots Republicans, those that came out in large numbers for the nationwide Tea Parties, are sick and tired of the Democrat-lite Republicans like Snowe, Specter, and Collins - the three Republican defectors that voted for the Stimulus bill. Crist would have been on that list had he been in the Senate at the time of the vote.
Crist supported the Stimulus bill and in February and shared the stage with Obama when he spoke in Ft. Myers, Florida to promote the bill.
Ana Navarro, a Republican consultant in Miami, was quoted as saying "Charlie Crist goes all wobbly in the knees every time he hears Barack Obama's voice...Politically, Charlie Crist is putting the Florida Republican federal elected representatives in a very tough spot." Navarro went on to say that if the Republican delegation "got Charlie Crist in a dark alley, all you'd have left is a tuft of white hair." She says that she's received calls from outraged Republican donors questioning Crist's intentions with regard to his Senate ambitions. "We could end up with a guy who's going to be the 60th vote for the Democrats" Navarro said.
Veteran Republican consultant Alex Castellanos said, "I don't think he's helped any national Republican ambitions he may have by stepping up to the plate and batting for the other team...There's a difference between working in a bipartisan way for the common good and switching sides and putting on the other team's jersey."
Pat Toomey, president of the conservative Club for Growth, said of Crist's Stimulus support: "It certainly hurts Charlie Crist with the Republican base...There's a lot of energy among Republicans across the country in opposition to this."
Despite endorsements from John Cornyn and and feckless Mitch McConnell, an informal survey of grassroots Republicans indicates that Crist is out of favor with the conservative base. On May 14 Crist appeared in Ft. Lauderdale for a "media availability" session. Anthony Man offers the following from that event:
"Crist is a moderate Republican who’s been criticized by conservatives for straying from what they regard as party principles. Asked about that, he said: 'One of those principles is to make sure that we’re prepared for hurricane season.'" Hunh?
On May 13, Man reported on Broward residents reactions at a Marco Rubio event: “We like him because he’s very conservative. We don’t want a governor who decides he’d rather be in Washington than Tallahassee. We need some fresh blood in the party – somebody that will challenge Obama,” said Shirley Hopkins, a club member and Republican committeewoman from Fort Lauderdale. “Charlie Crist has gone liberal on us.”
Republicans like Cornyn and McConnell need to wake up before 2010 and figure out that it's RINOs like Crist that caused Republicans to lose power in Washington. Grassroots Republicans are tired of moderate Republicans like McCain, for example. Many people that voted for McCain were voting AGAINST Obama.
The Republican leadership would do better to endorse and support real conservatives like Marco Rubio.