If Ron Paul runs for President in 2012 his campaign may want to consider skipping the Florida primary altogether and save itself the expense of competing in what would be a very difficult state for him. Not only was it his worst state in 2008 primaries, but the ascension of state House Speaker Marco Rubio to be its nominee for the U.S. Senate means that the state’s GOP has become a branch office for Conservative Inc.
It was Conservative Inc. that fueled Rubio’s rise. Their organizations funded his campaign which made it a credible enough alternative for Florida GOPers to turn to when Gov. Charlie Crist’s popularity ratings collapsed from the summer of 2009 until this past week’s announcement of his abandonment of the party for the upcoming U.S. Senate race.
There was another announcement about the Florida senate race a week ago that received much less attention but was just as significant. For New Hampshire U.S. Senator Bob Smith, who had relocated to Florida, had started a campaign for Senate last year and planned to run to Rubio’s Right. Indeed, Rubio provided opening from that flank when he criticized Arizona’s new immigration law. Instead, due to a lack of support and money, Smith ended his campaign. Thus, the only Right alternative in the U.S. Senate race will be the Constitution Party’s candidate Bernie DeCastro. Or for Libertarians, Alex Snitker.
Then again, even if someone like Smith could make an effective anti-immigration argument, very few in Florida, whether they are in agriculture industry or former immigrants themselves, may want to hear it. If there was little support for Smith, a former U.S. Senator, in among Florida Republicans, or Crist for that matter, then one can only deduce that the party has become a branch office of Conservative Inc.: pro-immigration, pro-empire, pro-big government so long as it benefits them, pro-flat tax and pro-senior citizen entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. McCain won Florida with a solid 36 percent of the vote in a six-person race and if Rudy Guliani hadn’t been on the ballot, McCain would have won by a majority because they both shared the same voter base. That base is basically made up of veterans, military personnel, the elderly, the South Florida Cuban vote, the farm sector and the North Florida Jacksonian vote. It embodies all the contradictions of so-called conservatism, the epitome of which was a recent Tea Party demonstration outside NASA’s headquarters in Cape Kennedy protesting President Obama’s space program because it spends too little.
This writer doesn’t begrudge Crist for doing what candidates like Lincoln Chaffee in Rhode Island, Joe Cahill in Massachusetts or even Joe Lieberman in Connecticut are doing or have done: running as independents for high office when their respective parties have may it quite clear they no longer have any use for them. It’s not so much opportunism as the ambitious looking for an easier, better path to victory and they would be foolhardy not to do so. It’s also a good reminder that a year is still a long time in politics. It was not long ago that Crist was touted as a new breed of Republican politician who would broaden the base of the party. Obviously the party has decided it would rather energize the “base” rather than building a big tent, at least for the midterm election.
The Republican Establishment has also demonstrated once again that it will cut loose moderate or establishment candidates if they are losing in the polls. The NRSC made it clear Crist was its candidate when he first announced and now is jumping on the Rubio bandwagon, just as it did last year in the New York House race with Doug Hoffman (abandoning their own party’s nominee in the process) If I’m Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe, and I get a credible, well funded primary opponent in Maine’s next Senate election, then I certainly can’t count on the party helping me out. They are in a weak position and they know it. They have less money than their Democrat counterparts and Conservative Inc. groups are going ahead with their own efforts to raise money for their preferred candidates this year.
If both Rubio and Rand Paul both are able to make their way to Washington this fall, you could be seeing two future leaders of two factions that will be battling for control of the party in the future. The party establishment can only watch and take their cues from the winner.