Sunday, January 11, 2009

How is Charlie Crist like Ronald Reagan?

The Miami Herald dubs Florida Gov. Charlie Crist "The Teflon Governor" for his unmitigated optimism and impervious approval ratings.

Of course, the Herald has all sorts of problems with Crist, and can't imagine someone else might not. That's why they puzzle over his popularity.

But despite those setbacks, opinion polls show Crist's approval ratings pegged in the high 60s among people of all political stripes, even when a majority say the state is headed in the wrong direction.

A common explanation: ''The guy is a masterful politician,'' said Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg.

(Ea.) And here's something that primary voters in 2012 might want to consider -- if we can look past the primary to the general.

While some conservative Republicans bristle at Crist's moderate stands, others say he's effective.

''He has a tremendous ability to make his point on party matters without appearing partisan,'' said David Johnson, a Republican political consultant.

Crist is skilled at charming different constituencies.... [but] viewed in some circles as a superficial chief executive whose moth-to-the-flame attraction to TV cameras for fluffy ''media avails'' too often substitutes for substantive policy.

''Where is he? That's what people keep asking me,'' said state Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, a Sarasota Democrat. 'We've got huge problems, and people don't see strong leadership coming forth. All we hear is, `The sun always shines in Florida.' ''

Crist makes no apologies for his rosy view of things. ''Somebody has to say we're going to get out of this, that there is a future and it's going to be OK,'' he said. ``At a time like this, it's very challenging, but it also can be very uplifting.''

(Ea.) There's one more thing -- remember how McCain always ended his speeches with "I firmly believe America's best days are ahead of her" and you got the feeling he was ready to rape the teleprompter and pillage his supporters? That's not Charlie Crist. When Charlie says it, he seems to genuinely think April showers bring May flowers.

So while he's often compared to McCain, the tone is completely different. Can you imagine Charlie Crist flying an A4 Skyhawk, dropping bombs on Vietnamese? And there might be the dig. If he's got one temperamental weakness, it could be that he's too sunny. Americans like a little grit in their c-in-c's. Reagan did the happy/angry thing extraordinary well, and whether Crist can be appropriately tough is still pending.