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Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014
Douglas MacKinnon Columns

The new Crist narrative doesn’t hold water


Prior to Tuesday’s primary, The Washington Post did a fairly major story on the race between Republican Gov. Rick Scott and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Why?

Some might say it’s the dog days of August and the Post’s editors are simply looking to put anything on the page that is not Obama, the Middle East, Congress or the battle over the name of the Washington Redskins. Some might say the Florida primary was simply topical.

Some might say those things. I would not.

Back in the day, I wrote a number of pieces for The Washington Post. Also, because of my work in politics, I got to know a number of the editors at the Post well. Good people all. That said, many will say off the record that they lean left of center politically. No shock there.

The article was titled: “Charlie Crist, Rick Scott battle for every Florida Vote.” By reading the headline, one might assume it was an even-handed treatment of both candidates. But the piece seemed slanted in favor of Crist. You have to dig well over 200 words into the story before you see the name “Rick Scott.” And even then, Florida’s governor is called the “unpopular incumbent Rick Scott.” Right after that broadside, it’s right back to Crist and his campaign to regain his old seat with the help of the Obama machine.

Again, some would say the Post was looking for a fresh news story. I would offer up the theory that in general, the liberal intelligentsia, the Obama White House and the national Democratic Party are starting to slip into panic mode as they watch the once double-digit lead of Crist morph into a three- to five-point lead for Scott. Independent of the White House or the Democratic Party, one could argue the Post — with its national following — is trying to warn and energize the base of the Democratic Party that the handpicked candidate in Florida may be in trouble.

Why would this concern them? Because they know Florida is critically important if the Democrats hope to retain the White House in 2016. While most liberals and Democrats in Washington may think little of Crist, they care deeply about ensuring the next president is a Democrat and realize that goal will be difficult to accomplish without Florida.

In an Associated Press story after the primary titled “Crist Makes Florida Comeback Bid as 4 States Vote,” Crist is quoted heavily. Now, many Republicans and conservatives will also say the AP is left of center politically, so it is not surprising to those camps that the news service seems to be carrying water for Crist. Even though three other states held primaries, the AP devoted most of its copy to the former Republican governor, turned independent, turned Democrat.

When the news service did mention Scott in any detail, it was buried almost 700 words into the story. And then, the reference is less than flattering as it highlights the millions he has spent and his changing positions.

Not to be outdone, The Washington Post then jumped back in after the primary with yet another Crist story while posting his victory speech over Nan Rich on its website. Crist declared the Democratic Party had accepted him, while detailing part of the strategy he would need to win.

Finally, as was reported locally, after he defeated Rich, former Republican governor Crist pushed the theme that Democrats now believe in him. He said, “Frankly, I think I was on their side when I was in the other party.” He continued by repeating what a friend once told him: “Charlie, you’ve been a Democrat your whole life, you just didn’t know it. Well, now I know it.”

OK. But I’m still confused. Does that mean he’s been a conservative Democrat “his whole life?”

When Crist once stressed that he was pro-life, pro Second Amendment, against Obamacare, in favor of abolishing the IRS, in favor of a proposition banning civil unions and was a “Jeb Bush Republican,” wasn’t that also part of his whole life?

Some in the media seem equally confused and may be trying to create a better narrative for Crist before it’s too late. They did it for Barack Obama. They might as well try for the man who opposed Obama before hugging him.

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