Thursday, January 7, 2010

The First Senator From the Tea Party?

Crist wants to fill the seat vacated in September by Mel Martinez, also a Republican. His Democratic opponent in the fall would likely be Representative Kendrick Meek. But first Crist must survive a civil war: a Republican primary fight against Marco Rubio, the 38-year-old former speaker of the Florida House who has become a cause célèbre of the national conservative movement and drew even with Crist last month in a Rasmussen poll (after trailing the governor by almost 30 percentage points over the summer). Crist has become a conservative scourge, for reasons he seems at a loss to understand and that in some ways have nothing to do with him. It is not uncommon for a party out of power to undergo an identity crisis and an internal bloodletting, and it is Crist’s bad luck that his race in 2010 fits the frame of a philosophical debate that has been fulminating in the Republican Party for several months. The race, and the national debate, pits the governing pragmatists against the ideological purists. “There are people who believe the way to be more successful as Republicans is to be more like Democrats,” Rubio told me early last month, essentially distilling his case against Crist, whom he keeps describing backhandedly as “a really nice, pleasant guy.” “And the people who believe we need to be more like Democrats will vote for Charlie Crist.” more

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