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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Conservative Backlash Against Crist

For Republicans obsessed with holding on to their tenuous position in the U.S. Senate, it was big and happy news when Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced he was running for the seat of retiring Sen. Mel Martinez. Yes, former FL House Speaker Marco Rubio, a conservative protege of Jeb Bush, had already announced for the seat. But given Crist’s high approval ratings and huge early polling lead over Rubio, that was easy to ignore. So it wasn’t surprising when TX Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, endorsed Crist, hoping to clear the field for the governor.
Turns out Cornyn may have forgotten to respect the tender sensibilities of conservative activists, who are still angry at Crist for spitting on the political grave of Katherine Harris by championing felon re-enfranchisement, and who really went wild when Crist endorsed the Obama stimulus package.
As Jonathan Allen and Bart Jansen of CQ explain today, two of the more prominent conservative bloggers, Eric Erickson of RedState and John Hawkins of RightWingNews, have helped organize a campaign and website called “Not One Red Cent” to boycott contributions to the NRSC and push Cornyn to resign as its chairman.
The CQ piece has an interesting quote from Hawkins:

The leadership of the Republican Party keeps saying we need to get back to our principles and talking about how important it is to attract more young voters and Hispanic Americans. Then, we get a viable, young, conservative, Hispanic candidate running for Senate and they arrogantly try to shove him aside to make way for a better connected, moderate pol who’s more acceptable to the GOP establishment.
This cuts to the core of what’s wrong with today’s Republican Party.

The dude does make a valid point about Republican hypocrisy. Since the last election, and arguably since the one before that, Republican pols have chirped like cicadas in unison with the delusional activist belief that the GOP’s problem was insufficient conservatism, and that “diversity” could be accomplished by aggressively recruiting some black or brown candidates who happened to be frothing conservatives themselves. Rubio definitely appears to answer that casting call. So it’s probably fair for activists to get mad when GOP poohbahs pass over Rubio for the first pretty tanned face who comes along, with his fancy poll standings and his reputation as the Last Moderate Standing among Republican headliners.
The “Not One Red Cent” webpage is quite a piece of work. It features a sort of manifesto with the shouting headline: NOT ONE RED CENT FOR RINO SELLOUTS! (the exclamation point is a bit redundant, but I guess that’s a stylistic decision).
Yesterday the site included a post by Richard McEnroe, entitled “A Florida Parable!” and with a subtitle that I cannot reprint in a family-friendly blog, that played off a bizarre news story about two Russian tourists who got caught in Florida having sex with a porcupine. McEnroe “revealed” the identity of the tourists by displaying photos of Michael Steele and Charlie Crist.
Nice, eh? Now as it happens, Mr. McEnroe describes himself on his own blog site, Three Beers Later, as a “South Park Conservative” who believes in “Loose Women and Tight Borders,” so perhaps his particularly sophomoric contributions to the revolt against the RINO SELLOUTS shouldn’t be held against angry conservative activists generally. But if I were Charlie Crist, I wouldn’t laugh these guys off too quickly. They have some deep-pocketed allies in the Club for Growth, which just yesterday demanded that Crist pledge that he would “not follow fellow liberal Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party if he felt his political survival depended on it.” Since the Club is often credited with pushing Specter out of the Republican Party, that’s a rather pointed analogy they are drawing to Crist.
Whether or not the NRSC starts noticing a pinch in their banking accounts, it’s doubtful that Marco Rubio is going away any time soon. He’s definitely got friends in low places.

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