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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Charlie Crist Bites the Bullet

Embattled Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, already being bludgeoned to near political death by fellow Republicans backing his Senate rival, Marco Rubio, took a step today that probably ended his career in GOP politics. He vetoed legislation that would have made placed Florida on the far frontier of experiments in test-based “merit pay” for teachers, while also phasing out teacher tenure. Backed by most Florida GOPers, the bill was considered something of a pet project for former Gov. Jeb Bush (generally considered the power behind Rubio), and had bitterly polarized the state, generating mass protests by teachers and students on the one hand, and angry GOP attacks on teachers unions on the other. Indeed, Republicans sometimes seemed to describe the bill as less about education than about union-busting. It would certainly do more to link teacher pay and job retention to students’ standardized tests results than most proponents of “pay for performance” are comfortable with.
Crist had often hinted he would sign the bill, but then engineered a week of suspense over his intentions, capped by a dramatic announcement one day before the bill would have become law without his signature.
His action will immediately revive rumors (which Crist and his Senate campaign have constantly denied) that he will fold his primary campaign and file for candidacy as an independent. As fate would have it, a new Quinnipiac poll just out today shows Crist narrowly ahead in a three-way general election race with Rubio and likely Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek. Earlier polls hadn’t made the indie route look very promising for Crist.
In any event, whether he refiles as an indie or just decides not to run at all, today’s veto is going to make him even more of a pariah in Republican circles, and an unlikely hero to teachers.

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