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The Biggest (Or Most Deserving) Loser

The Senate journey of Charlie Crist seems to be coming to a laughable end.  Good.  If there was one Senate candidate in a seriously contested race that I could pick to lose above all others it would be him.  Other people might pick Harry Reid, and though Reid is a belligerent jerk, he does seem to have a set of economic liberal core beliefs that give him a certain integrity even with all of his personality flaws.

Crist just seems to have a hunger for office and status (I'm not even sure he wants power exactly.) Ever since he went the independent route, it was clear that he was unlikely to win regardless of what the polls said over the summer.  Rubio was an articulate and attractive conservative who came across as well prepared on policy.  Unless Rubio self-destructed, Rubio was always going to get the 45% or more that makes up the right-of-center vote in Florida.  That meant Crist would have to win almost all moderates and liberals in a three way race.  That might have been possible under different circumstances.  If the economy was in great shape, he might have been able to ride an image as a pragmatic miracle worker, but the Florida economic miracle is a bust and governor Crist is holding the bag.  In this weakened position, Crist had to make appeals based on principle and policy as well as his record.  The problem was that since conservative voters weren't going to be for him, he would have to move left to capture usually Democratic-leaning voters.  This left him vulnerable among moderates because his every move to the left made him look ever more cynical and unserious about governing.  And it isn't like ambiguity or support of Obamacare is all that popular among Florida swing voters anyway.

And yet...  I loathed Crist but when I heard him talk in a favorable environment he made his evasions and switches seem reasonable.  No, that's not it.  It was that he projected such reasonableness and sincerity that while he was talking that other stuff didn't matter so much.  It took a conscious exertion of will to remember why I was against him.  It reminded me of this:

Those who listened unwarily to the voice could seldom report the words that they heard; and if they did, they wondered, for little power remained in them.  Mostly they remembered only that it was a delight to hear the voice speaking, all that it said seemed wise and reasonable, and desire awoke in them by swift agreement to seem wise themselves...For some the spell lasted only while the voice spoke to them, and when it spoke to another they smiled, as men do when they see through a juggler's trick as other men gape at it...But none were unmoved; none rejected its pleas and commands without an effort of mind and will, so long as its master had control of it.

One of the pleasures of this campaign has been to watch Crist lose control of his voice and be part of the audience that sees through his juggler's tricks. 

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Discussions - 10 Comments

Yes, good riddance to such as Crist. The GOP has been plagued by such RINO garbage for far too long -- the people need a real choice.

I've always thought it was ironic that true conservatives almost always win, and yet the GOP establishment has often run away from such candidates (Goldwater was not a true conservatives, after all). I've never quite understood what they thought they were accomplishing by being the liberal-lite party.

The fact the Clinton campaigned for the guy should say it all. Cigar anyone?

Redwald, so is Christine O'Donnell a real conservative?

To move on to more serious people, one could probably find specific policies or votes where one could argue that George Allen, Jim Talent, and John Sununu are not "real" conservatives, but any definition that excludes all three of them probably limits the ranks of "real" conservatives to a pretty small minority of the population. There are lots of reasons why candidates win or lose and there are times when an attractive moderate (or even just a weasel like Crist) candidate has a better chance of being elected than a particular "real" conservative. That isn't a reason to support the weasel over the conservative, but results are often not going to align with your (or my) preferences.

There is one sense where you are right and that is that a conservative candidate CAN often do better among swing voters (or draw from a different set of swing voters while energizing right-leaning voters) than can a moderate. That is very dependent on the quality of the candidate though. If a candidate of Sharron Angle-level quality had challenged Crist, then Crist would be cruising to victory.

There is such a thing as a "real" conservative, despite your attempt to muddy the waters in that regard. What I'm talking about assumes "all else equal" in terms of candidate quality. Given equal measures of brains, charm, and motivation, a conservative will beat a liberal in national elections (and in most State elections as well, although not on the Left Coasts, necessarily).

If I had time this morning, I'd lay out what a "real" conservative is, but alas. Some other time, perhaps.

A real conservative is any Republican who wins an election.

As Jackie Chiles would say, Mr. Spiliakos' unprovoked denigration of the proven rhetorical reputation of Mr. Saruman is outrageous, egregious, slanderiferous, and so on.

Carl - Brilliant. I can just see the ladies on the view drooling over him.
I pray a lot of "staffs" are going to be broken tomorrow. Bring on the Fourth Age!

If a candidate of Sharron Angle-level quality had challenged Crist, then Crist would be cruising to victory.

You don't know that. Stop it.

Redwald, I'd be interested to hear your definition, but one that leaves out the above folks and people with their general policy preferences (I'm sure one could isolate some unpopular piece of pork they all supported or even Medicare Part D -Sunnun voted nay - and say "AHA, they are not real conservatives"), leaves out a large fraction of American conservatives. As to a fair fight between a liberal and a conservative, I would like to think that the conservative would win on a national basis all things being equal, but things often aren't equal (in terms of quality of available candidates and the nature of a given constituency.) It also matters how particular conservatives interpret and explain the issues of the day. It would be sad (and bad for the country) for a conservative candidate to scare old people with their explanations of entitlement reform when better explanations or better thought out policies would have given the conservative a much better chance to win.

AD, you are of course right that I don't know that a Sharron Angle-type would be losing badly to Crist. Crist is going to lose by 10-20% or more and it is going to look like almost anybody could have beaten him. But it took a very articulate, disciplined, and policy smart Rubio (who was, among other things, very careful not to scare old people) to avoid being stuck with the extremist label by a very articulate and (compared to say Harry Reid) not that unpopular governor. As Rubio consolidated the right-of-center-but-kinda-like-Crist vote, Crist had to move left to win over liberal voters, but that hurt him with nonideological swing voters and people who like integrity generally. Rubio was able to win by preventing himself from being marginalized as an extermist. He kicked out the moderate right-of-center leg of Crist's coalition and forced Crist to make ever more desperate choices. Or Crist could have stuck to his principles if he ever had any. Wow it feels good to think about it.

A candidate who had a very shaky affect in front of all but the most favorable audiences and tended to say self-marginalizing sounding things (much but not all of what Angle said wouldn't have come off so bad if it had been said by someone more skilled at talking to people who didn't already agree with them) would have been much more easily marginalized. I suspect (though of course I don't know) that Marco Rubio would agree with me on that.

Perhaps this pull quote from Peggy Noonan sheds some light on your worries about scaring the center:

"But the center doesn’t appear to be scared. Maybe it doesn’t scare easy. Maybe getting scared is what happens next time, not this time. Or, my hunch, maybe the center, some of whose members have expressed a certain antipathy or standoffishness toward the tea party, simply doesn’t care that it feels a certain antipathy or standoffishness. Because such feelings are beside the point right now, a self-indulgence suited to less crisis-laden times. And we are in crisis. Our spending is ruinous, the demands of government are too great. It doesn’t matter if you like the style of those who want to turn it around, join them and try to turn it around. One of the things Rep. Paul Ryan says has seeped into the electorate: We have only a short time to fix things, we have to move now."

I think she's about right. The center is more scared of what will happen if we continue down this path than they are of intemperate (if well meaning) speech on the right. The sticks and stones of the Left are the real threat . . . not the imaginary threat of "tea baggers."

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