If Charlie Crist was a comic book character, he would be Beetle Bailey.
Beetle Bailey is known for being loose, lackadaisical and utterly likable. He also is something of a knucklehead, more interested in pursuing a good time than achieving anything of merit.
Like Beetle Bailey, Crist is extremely personable and is a master campaigner who knows how to make people feel good. They both also share a longing for fun and a free-spirited nature — which is great when you’re a comic character who is a hapless private in the Army. Not so great when you’re expected to lead the nation’s fourth-largest state.
Outside of being likable, Crist has little else to offer. He is an empty suit and a political opportunist who does not have convictions. As someone who lacks significant accomplishment in life outside of politics, Crist is the poster-child of a career politician who is a member of the political class. His 2010 U.S. Senate campaign opponent, Marco Rubio, is also a member of this group. These political ladder-climbers lack the real-world skills, life experiences and business practices to effectively lead our country. For the best and most well-known member of this group, look no further than Barack Obama.
All three of them have been given the gift of a silver tongue, affability, and a laser-like sense of reading the political opinions of the American people. But political talent doesn’t mean they know anything about leadership, and therein lies the problem.
Crist has never been a leader. Leaders mold, shape and direct opinions of the people they govern; they are not solely guided by the ever-changing whims of the those who elect them. Leaders also have convictions and commitments to one or two key “signature” issues. Other than his branding of being “the people’s governor,” Crist is not known for having major legislative or policy accomplishments, this despite 20-plus years as a career politician.
At his announcement in St. Petersburg on Monday, Crist took a page out of Chapter One of the Democratic Party’s campaign manual. The chapter is titled, “Class warfare works!” Crist followed it just as his campaign advisers no doubt told him to, by taking swipes at Gov. Rick Scott for being wealthy — as though coming from lower middle-class and humble means (as Scott did), should be considered a negative. Only someone born to privilege (as Charlie Crist was), who has never built a business, and never personally created a single job, or met a payroll, would think making something of yourself on your own abilities and fulfilling the American dream is something to be ashamed of.
Crist also took jabs at Scott’s stewardship of Columbia/HCA and the fine the company paid for alleged Medicare fraud. This comes out of Chapter Two of the Democrats’ play book. It is titled, “The Politics of Personal Destruction.” Unfortunately for Crist, that tactic against Scott has been tried, and it didn’t work the last time. For his part, Crist should tread lightly on scandals, as he has plenty of his own (think Jim Greer).
Watching Crist unfold his campaign and its negative strategy showed just how much of a desperate chameleon the former governor is, and how much he longs to remain relevant. He is apparently preparing to run a slash-and-burn campaign as though he were Gen. Sherman marching to the sea. That might work for some candidates, but when you’ve built your entire political persona around being Mr. Nice Guy, it’s foolish and reckless.
But what do you expect from a candidate who looks more like a cartoon character than a leader?
Chris Ingram is a Republican political consultant and analyst for Bay News 9. Follow him on Twitter at: @IrreverentView.com.