Crist, Perry: A Study in Contrasts
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
While Governor Rick Perry celebrated his commanding victory over U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in Tuesday's Republican gubernatorial primary in Texas, Florida Governor Charlie Crist delivered his final State of the State speech to lawmakers in Tallahassee. The two events seemed to crystallize the opposite ends of the GOP, and the two Republican governors' divergent campaign fortunes.
In Texas, voters' "yes" to Perry was an emphatic "no" to Washington, as The New York Times characterized the race on its front page. What once had seemed like a serious threat to Perry from the more moderate Hutchison fizzled away as the twice-elected governor railed against the federal government on his way to an easy win. Perry easily was able to characterize Hutchison as part of the Washington system that "tea party" voters and many others recently have repudiated.
In Perry's victory, The Times sees the extension of a national conservative trend that started in Massachusetts in January: "The Republican primary in Texas reflects the grass-roots rebellion among conservatives against moderate Republicans and Democrats that has shaken up politics across the country," the paper said, "beginning with the defeat of the Democratic candidate for Senate in Massachusetts by Scott Brown, a Republican."
Enter Charlie Crist. The moderate governor of Florida, who has praised the federal stimulus while other Republican governors have attacked it, is locked in a difficult U.S. Senate campaign against the more conservative Marco Rubio, the former speaker of the Florida House. Polls have shown Crist trailing Rubio by double digits, and there even is speculation that Crist may run as an independent as a result of his obvious difficulties in the primary.
"The man addressing the Legislature on Tuesday night is no longer a national model for Republican success, but rather a national model for endangered Republicans," the St. Petersburg Times wrote in an analysis . "He is a Republican Senate candidate fighting for his political life and he sounded less like Mr. Nice Guy than a combative and unapologetic candidate determined to cast frontrunner Marco Rubio as small and petty."
Crist used his speech to push once again for a pragmatic, not ideological, approach to governing, even as he landed sharp attacks on Rubio, The Times reported. "Our practical solutions will serve only to inflame extremists," Crist told lawmakers on Tuesday. "Take heart, knowing that it is we problem-solvers — and not they — who will move our Florida forward."