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In many ways our governor seems a natural to join the Republican presidential ticket. Then again ...
By ADAM C. SMITH, Times Political editor
Published December 9, 2007
On Fox News recently Carl Cameron became the latest reporter who tried but failed to get Charlie Crist to rule out accepting an invitation to run for vice president. American Spectator's December issue claims that Crist is one of several Republicans Rudy Giuliani has promised to put on his short list, something the Giuliani campaign denies.
In the last three weeks alone, stories touting Gov. Crist's vice presidential prospects have run in the Tampa Tribune, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Kansas City Star and The Hill.
"He is extraordinarily popular early in his term, and Florida is a must-carry for Republicans and a state that I think will be a battleground," said veteran Republican consultant Roger Stone of Miami. "I do think this continues to be a toss-up state, so Charlie makes sense."
"I can't think of a swing state where you couldn't send Charlie Crist where he wouldn't hit it out of the ballpark," said Stuart Stevens, another Republican consultant who has worked for the likes of Crist, Bush-Cheney and now Mitt Romney. "He'll be on everybody's short list."
The speculation is inevitable given Crist's popularity in America's biggest battleground, and the fact that lawmakers last year passed a bill that would allow Crist to run for vice president without giving up his Florida job. Crist's cheerleaders at the Florida GOP are practically campaigning for Vice President Crist, and on Thursday fired off an e-mail heralding a quote from Sen. Mel Martinez about how attractive Crist is as a running mate.
Lets get a grip here, people. This vice presidential talk is way too premature for Charlie Crist. He'll get the attention and the speculation, but not the nod.
Florida's electoral votes are crucial, sure, but at this point the risks of picking Crist outweigh the benefits. Three reasons why the Crist won't be picked:
1. Is he really ready? First and foremost we hope, a president wants someone who would be instantly ready to handle the most important job in the world. Charlie Crist has amazing political instincts and warmth, but that whole heartbeat away from being the most powerful person on Earth thing is a steep threshold.
One year into his first term, Crist, 51, can't yet claim to have achieved his two most important campaign promises: tax relief and property tax relief. Nor have we seen him tested by life-and-death crises like a major hurricane.
We're betting Crist can spell potato, but that wouldn't stop Democrats from making the Dan Quayle comparisons should the nominee pick a rookie governor who twice failed the Bar exam.
2. Dubious coattails. John F. Kennedy probably owes the presidency to Lyndon Johnson's strength in the South, and maybe Crist could be the first running mate since 1960 to deliver the White House by way of Florida.
That's a big maybe.
Last month a St. Petersburg Times/Bay News 9 poll found 57 percent of registered voters gave Crist strong marks as governor, so he would clearly help any candidate carry Florida. Those approval ratings could drop like a rock, however, if the People's Governor declared halfway through his first term he'd rather be the People's Vice President.
Crist has never had a major Florida political machine, like Jeb Bush did. Last year his coattails were too small to prevent Democrats from picking up two congressional seats, a Cabinet seat and eight state House seats.
3. He's a bachelor. Fair or not, any presidential nominee has to be skittish about the questions and speculation sure to arise over a 51-year-old running mate who has never had a family.
Crist has long had to contend with unsubstantiated rumors that he's gay, despite his many denials. And if that wasn't enough, a decades-old paternity claim against him surfaced during last year's gubernatorial race. Crist denied fathering the child when he signed court papers in 1989 surrendering parental rights and clearing the way for her adoption. The girl is now 18 and Crist has said he would not consider a paternity test.
In an election where one leading Democrat, Barack Obama, has admitted using cocaine, and a leading Republican, Rudy Giuliani, has acknowledged adultery, the personal life of a running mate is unlikely to make or break a campaign.
Still, some episodes in Crist's personal life don't help sell him as running mate material: hanging out until the wee hours with 19-year-olds at an FSU beer joint, for instance. Or making the gossip columns for dating a would-be "America's Hottest Mom" and more recently a not-yet-divorced Hamptons/Fisher Island socialite.
Do no harm is a standard for running mates, and it's no given that Crist meets it. He didn't exactly overwhelm Jim Davis in the '06 gubernatorial debates.
Plenty of savvy people in this state believe Crist will one day wind up in the White House. Many more people have learned the folly of underestimating him.
But 2008 isn't the campaign cycle to reach higher. Stick with us in Florida a while, Charlie. Get some accomplishments under your belt.
You'll only be 56 in 2012, after all, and we could use your full attention for a few years.
Adam C. Smith can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8241.
[Last modified December 10, 2007, 07:50:30]