The Republican fratricide in the Nov. 3 special election in upstate New York may prove just an opening round of an even more spectacular bloodbath in Florida in 2010.
In New York, Republican feuding lost the party a seat in the House of Representatives. At stake in Florida is not only a senatorship — but very possibly Republican hopes for 2012 as well.
The battle in Florida pits Gov. Charlie Crist against former Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio. Both men claim to be conservative, pro-life, tax cutters. On the issues, they would seem to agree far more than they disagree.
But on one issue they have disagreed passionately: President Obama’s fiscal stimulus. Squeezed by his state’s desperate fiscal condition, Crist endorsed and campaigned for the Obama stimulus. Inspired by his conservative ideology, Rubio opposed stimulus.
Now Rubio is the darling of conservatives nationwide. Just this week it was announced that he would give the keynote address at next year’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. He has been profiled on the cover of National Review, endorsed by the Club for Growth, and feted by radio talk show hosts.
Crist — who as recently as 2008 topped the libertarian Cato Institute’s list of favorite governors — has been consigned to pariah status…
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission
The final Obama plan granted Florida more than $15 billion over three years. That money averted radical cuts to schools and Medicaid. It saved the state from furloughing employees and raising taxes even higher. It has paid for emergency employment on roads and water projects. It has extended unemployment benefits for 700,000 Floridians — and put an extra $25 per week in their relief packets.
Marco Rubio has fiercely denounced Crist’s support for the Obama stimulus. His campaign ads show images of Crist and Obama side by side and damn the stimulus as “trillions in reckless spending” and a “terrible threat to a fragile economy…”
But Rubio’s message of uncompromising, unremitting opposition to President Obama has won him an enthusiastic following among conservatives nationwide…
A few days ago, I was talking to a roomful of young conservatives about the crisis. All agreed in denouncing both the bank bailouts done under TARP and the stimulus. I asked: OK fine — what was the alternative?
There was a short pause, and then somebody laughed: “I guess it’s lucky that we weren’t in power.”
Cutting off your nose to spite your face is something American right-wing politicians have long embraced as a tactic. This time they may be excising an appendage a bit lower down – below their beltline.