by Tony Panaccio
American Reporter Correspondent
April 30, 2010
STOP THE WORLD: CHARLIE CRIST WANTS TO GET BACK ON
CLEARWATER, Fla., April 30, 2010 -- I'm blocking out a week right after election night this November, because if Florida Governor Charlie Crist wins the Florida seat in the US Senate in that election, I am hijacking him and taking him to Vegas. He is one helluva gambler!
Tanned, rested and ready (and did I mention tanned?) from a mini-hibernation, Crist announced Thursday evening that he is leaving the Republican Party in Florida to run as an independent against young Republican upstart Marco Rubio and the likely Democratic nominee, Forest Whitaker lookalike Congressman Kendrick Meek.
Talk about a gamble - but then again, look at his PR leading up to the decision. He masterfully vetoed several vastly partisan bills handed to him by a state legislature controlled by Republicans who are now embroiled in FBI and IRS investigations about campaign expenses that look like they're from Hugh Hefner's expense account instead of from elected public servants.
By virtue of a high-profile veto of a Republican schools bill, Crist now has Florida's teachers on his side - not an easy catch - and can use the spending allegations against the Republicans to his advantage. If he can characterize them in the same light the media casts on Goldman Sachs, he might be able to pull it off.
What's that, you say? Crist was involved in the Republican spending,too, to a much lesser degree? And it was his hand-picked lieutenant Jim Greer who as GOP party chair (he's resigned) was one of the chief offenders? No problem.
If anything, running as an independent sets up the possibility for a very dramatic mea culpa in which Crist gives the media and voters chapter-and-verse on all the spending, revealing every dirty little detail. It would be part of his fresh commitment to put the people before his party (you can use that phrase if you'd like, Chuck - the first one is free). He could explain everything that led to the spending spree at a West Hollywood bondage club, and portray the decadent culture of the party as one of his justifications for leaving it.
And that's why the Florida Republican Party should be shaking in their Louis Malles right now. Good-Time Charlie has a new mantra that has been appearing in the press since inquiring minds began asking how he could think of running as an independent when he declared positively only a few months ago that he'd run as a Republican: "Things change."
That quote will be the launching pad for all of Charlie's criticisms of his former party. The fact is, as a Republican insider, Charlie had to sidestep and avoid discussions on his now-former cronies in the party, who have attracted the feds by their brazen spending on parties, meals and entertainment. As an outsider, he can sing like Celine Dion hopped up on acid, and sing he will.
As an independent, his PR strategy will likely be "Big Political Machine = Bad," and unlike other independents who have been independents all their lives, he has the ability to smack his former party around. His PR campaign will be all about the need for an overhaul of the big political parties, who have lost touch with real Americans.
So, discount all the polls. Discount all the political pundits. From a PR standpoint, Charlie has a loaded M-16 aimed at the center of both major parties in Florida, and there isn't a whole lot they can say to defend against the coming barrage.
And if there are still doubters out there who think a former political party big shot can't get elected as an independent, I have two words for you: Joe Lieberman.
In the meantime, does anyone know what jacket size Charlie takes? I want to get those matching suits that Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman wore in Rain Man for when we go to Vegas. Who knows? Maybe I'll get to make out with Maria Conchita Alonzo in an elevator, too!
Tony Panaccio is the senior campaign strategist at EMSI Public Relations, a national firm based in Clearwater, Fla. He's split his 28 years in the media between journalism and a marketing.