Opinion

Commentary: GOP too quick to back Crist over Rubio

Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Miami Herald. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/MCT)
Myriam Marquez is a columnist for the Miami Herald. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/MCT) MCT

Off goes Gov. Charlie Crist to run for the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Sen. Mel Martinez.

Attorney General Bill McCollum and term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, both Republicans, may be running for the governor's seat, leaving those primo jobs up for grabs.

Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat jumped in for the governor's job.

The head spins watching the Cabinet members make their moves in this political game of musical chairs.

But there are more machinations. Challenging Crist to battle for the big Washington prize will be former House Speaker Marco Rubio on the GOP side and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek and state Sen. Dan Gelber, both South Florida Democrats.

Hey, as Rubio says, "let the debate begin."

But wait. The fix is already in, and Rubio's worst enemy is his own party.

There's no debate apparently within the National Republican Senatorial Committee. On Tuesday, the committee endorsed the popular Crist just minutes after he announced he'd take a leap toward Washington.

Why the rush to endorse in a primary? Doesn't that break Ronald Reagan's golden rule?

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who heads the NRSC, says the moderate Crist is the best candidate to win a purple state like Florida, which has turned increasingly Democratic in voter registration.

The always loyal Martinez, whom Crist backed in his Senate run, already issued a statement backing Crist for the job.

So much for the "big tent" the GOP claims to be building to attract Hispanics and blacks after getting pummeled by Barack Obama and the Democratic congressional candidates last year. Only white-haired RINOs need apply for the Washington job, as in Republican in Name Only – the reference most preferred by GOP conservatives when talking about Crist.

The strategy now?

Tick off South Florida's older Cuban-American voters and other conservative Hispanic Republicans by sticking it to the socially and fiscally conservative Rubio a year and a half before the election.

Forget about having two strong GOP candidates for the primary – just start the Crist coronation.

Yes, the younger Rubio is a little green on the national stage and proved to be too inflexible at times in Tallahassee, but why not let GOP voters make the call without interference and big money from the NRSC?

Despite his telegenic looks, Rubio surely will have to work extra hard to reach the good old voters in the Panhandle and parts of Central Florida where folks – to put it kindly – aren't so sure about those hyphenated Americans from down south being true blue (well, red) Grand Old Party faithful. But his conservative street cred resonates with those folks, too.

I'm not referring to which candidate best fits my moderate beliefs or those of thousands of other non-affiliated voters in Florida or moderate Republicans.

The everything-is-rosy Crist has made some decisions I appreciate, like embracing the federal stimulus money at a time when the state's economy is tanking.

But why come off as a bully with the senatorial dudes ganging up on the little guy who walks the conservative talk?

The NRSC should have sat it out on the sidelines until next year, and let ideas – instead of money – make the case for each candidate.

Crist already has the strong popularity ratings statewide – that's true. But polls can change in a Miami minute.

The NRSC looks desperate moving so quickly.

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