Crist book latest chapter in clash with GOP
By Brandon Larrabee
The News Service of Florida
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, FL – For weeks now, the Republican Party of Florida has hammered its onetime standard-bearer, former Gov. Charlie Crist, even sending out daily “This Day in Cristory” emails to highlight the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat’s political evolution.
In that vein, Crist’s promise this week to write “a no-holds-barred memoir” about his change of heart can be seen not only as an attempt to raise his profile for a possible bid for his old job in 2014, but as a shot back at the party that has turned him into a piñata ever since he bolted the GOP three years ago.
Then, Crist was trying to avoid a defeat in the 2010 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Now, with a different audience in mind, he’s working on a book entitled “THE PARTY’S OVER: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.” Crist and the book’s publisher, Dutton, are promising a bridge-burner.
“I’ll share my very strong feelings about what’s happened to the Republicans, how the party I grew up in has been hi-jacked by extremists, losing its compassion and common sense,” Crist said in a press release issued by Dutton. “I’ll describe exactly what I saw and what it made me realize.”
Crist and co-author Ellis Henican, a Newsday columnist, will also share the former governor’s “very frank opinions on Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and other top-tier Republicans,” in the publisher’s words. While it doesn’t specifically say what those opinions will be, most of the Republicans will likely come in for a bit of a beating, despite Crist’s attempts to downplay any differences between himself and Bush while Crist was still in the GOP.
It comes after the Republican Party has churned out press release after web video bringing up Crist’s old positions in a none-too-subtle attempt to both raise doubts about Crist in the minds of general-election voters and highlight his past differences with Democratic Party priorities.
For example, the RPOF sent out an edition of the “Cristory” feature with a list of questions that included this one from a Tampa Tribune editorial in 2009: “I oppose the president’s budget proposals, in particular his willingness to increase the top tax rate on personal income from 35 to 39.6 percent. I am publicly asking him to withdraw these tax increase proposals, considering the structural damage higher tax rates will do to the long-term growth potential of our nation’s economy.”
Publicly, the party says it’s not afraid of Crist’s literary efforts.
“We didn’t know that Charlie Crist was launching a new career as a fiction writer,” RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry said in a statement. “But we do want to thank him for the hundreds of pages of rhetorical ammunition he will be giving to us and his primary opponents.”
The back and forth has provided nothing if not entertainment for those who pay attention to politics.
“It is reminiscent of divorce court, where the louder each one screams, the more interesting it becomes to the audience,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida.
But MacManus said there’s also a risk for both sides, after a brutal 2012 presidential campaign suggested that there were limits to how far negative advertising and political mud-slinging could go before it began turning off voters.
“Generating interest and generating turnout can be two different things, and that’s what they have to worry about,” she said.
With Crist’s book currently set for a winter release, though, both sides might not be done generating unflattering remarks about each other.