Expanding on a point I made in the Morning Jolt . . .
. . . bit by bit, Crist seems to be caught in the same gravitational pull that summoned Jim Jeffords, Arlen Specter, Dede Scozzafava, the phenomenon that makes the “RINO” label mean not just a wishy-washy high-maintenance pain, but a ticking time-bomb ready to pull a Benedict Arnold. The moment a not-quite-conservative-enough Republican starts losing to a more-conservative one, they start hearing the siren’s call from the Democratic-media industrial complex about how they can suddenly transform from just another guy who lost a primary to a tragic symbol of conservative intolerance, a beloved open-minded moderate who was martyred by a closed-minded party. The Newsweek cover, book deal, Sunday morning show interview, and semester teaching at Harvard are all pretty much assured.
Very rapidly, Charlie Crist seems to think the Arlen Specter route is his best course; apparently he hasn’t seen a poll in Pennsylvania lately.
Note also that few if any of these professional political victims of supposed Republican base intolerance ever go back into elected office.
Jeffords flipped shortly after winning reelection as a Republican and retired at the end of that term.
We’ll see what the future holds for Dede Scozzafava; she was stripped of her Republican leadership position in the state assembly. As noted, Specter is in pretty rough shape.
I wouldn’t put former Rhode Island senator Lincoln Chafee in this precise category, as he never left the party while in office, but I would note that voting with the Democrats on almost every major key issue didn’t save him in a big year for Democrats in 2006. We’ll see how he performs as a third-party candidate in the Rhode Island governor’s race this year.
Some might put Mike Bloomberg into this category, but I suspect many figured his Republican status was simply the easiest avenue to the mayor’s office in 2001 . . .
For some reason, the phenomenon is not the same on the other side: Phil Gramm, Richard Shelby, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Billy Tauzin, Nathan Deal, Norm Coleman . . .
Lots of Republicans get called “RINOs.” But the ones who have the label stick to them generally have really lost touch with their constituents’ opinions . . .