At 5:00 p.m. Friday, doors open at the J.W. Marriott Marquis Miami for an event featuring the two silver foxes of American politics: Charlie Crist and Bill Clinton.
Mr. Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida – now a Democrat – wants his old job back. Former President Clinton is there to use his unparalleled campaign skills to help. Republicans have made hay over the fact that, back in 1998, when Crist was running for the Senate (unsuccessfully) as a Republican, he called on Mr. Clinton to resign during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
That, of course, is ancient history. Though it does remind voters that Crist used to be a Republican, and is a thoroughly political animal. This is not news.
Crist’s history with Clinton also runs more recently, to the last time the Floridian tried (unsuccessfully) for the Senate, back in 2010. Crist was the GOP establishment favorite until tea party-fueled Marco Rubio came along and drove Crist out of the party. Clinton was dispatched to try to get the Democrat, Rep. Kendrick Meek, to drop out and set up a one-on-one general election match, independent Crist vs. Mr. Rubio. It didn’t work; Mr. Meek was impervious to Clinton’s charms, and Rubio won the three-way race.
Politico calls Crist and Clinton “the odd couple,” but we disagree. They’re both as political as they come, and are sure to present the ultimate in alpha male prowess on stage in Miami.
For Clinton, the top Democratic draw for candidates around the country, there are plenty of reasons to stump for Crist:
Florida, Florida, Florida. If wife Hillary Rodham Clinton runs for president in 2016, the Sunshine State is a must win. It’s the nation’s biggest battleground state, with 29 electoral votes. As governor again, Crist could deploy his political infrastructure to her benefit. Most important, the governor appoints the secretary of state, who is in charge of all things election-related in the state. Think Katherine Harris in 2000, secretary of state to then-Gov. Jeb Bush (R) during Bush v. Gore.
Clinton loves to help Democrats. Even Democrats who are former Republicans. Politics is a team sport. But sometimes players change teams, and sometimes there are internal squabbles. Clinton has had his differences with President Obama, too, but when the call came, Clinton was there for him in 2012, and delivered the best speech of the Democratic National Convention.
Clinton especially loves to help Democrats win governor’s offices. As former governor of Arkansas, Clinton has a special place in his heart for state chief executives – a position seen as the best preparation for the presidency. Clinton chaired the nonpartisan National Governors Association in 1986 and ’87, and is the only governors association chair to become president. In 1989, Clinton also chaired the partisan Democratic Governors Association, which helps Democrats win governorships. Democratic governors were instrumental in helping Clinton win Western states, a Republican stronghold, in his first presidential race in 1992.
Clinton just plain loves politics. We suspect that if a Democratic candidate for dog-catcher called for help, Clinton would be there if it fit his schedule. Well, maybe not dog-catcher. But this year, Clinton’s dance card is full of appearances at Democratic fundraisers and campaign events (and radio ads and robo-calls) for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot. With President Obama struggling with low job approvals, and being especially unwelcome to campaign for endangered Democrats in red states, Clinton is the go-to guy.
In June, Clinton appeared at a Florida Democratic Party fundraising gala in Hollywood, Fla., which raised a record $1.1 million. The crowd was fired up to oust Gov. Rick Scott (R) but not necessarily for Crist, according to one report.
That will be Clinton’s task Friday night in Miami: Get Florida Democrats inspired about a former Republican governor who’s now one of them.