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To Get Elected, Florida's Rubio Leaving Climate Action Past Behind

Crist gets flak for political opportunism. But it's Tea Party favorite Rubio who's shifted from climate promoter to climate denier

By Elizabeth McGowan

Nov 1, 2010

As an upbeat and reassuring media fixture on Florida’s beaches during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Crist the populist governor was riding high in the polls from May through August. Those numbers plummeted once the crisis began playing out.
The nonpartisan and independent Cook Political Report lists the Florida Senate contest as “leans Republican.” While that would seem to give the nod to Rubio, handicappers know that having an independent in the mix makes for tricky math.

For one, having a trio of candidates on the November ballot means the victor can win with as little as 36 percent of the vote. Plus, three-way races can blur party lines and allegiances of independent voters. Without a natural base of voters, for example, Crist is attempting to woo enough Democrats, Republicans and independents to his camp.

Rubio could hardly expect an endorsement from any green group, especially after the Tampa Tribune recorded him in February voicing this skepticism about global warming: “I don't think there's the scientific evidence to justify it.”

But Meek, the 44-year-old Miami congressman, wasn’t any too happy when he learned he had to share a Sierra Club endorsement with Crist. Even though President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore have stumped for Meek, the word from insiders is that Democratic rainmakers prefer Crist. Meek reportedly rejected a Clinton suggestion that he drop out of the race to preserve a victory for the independent.

Who Would Be a Better Senate Fit?

If, as the consensus in Washington seems to be, the Senate needs to be the chamber that leads the way on climate legislation in the 112th Congress, which of the three Florida candidates would be the best fit?

Tamminen’s leanings are with Crist because Meek doesn’t have a history of leadership on the issue and the 39-year-old Rubio has painted himself into a corner, he said.

Rubio served almost nine years in the Florida Legislature after winning a special election in 2000. Crist, the eldest of the three on the ballot at age 54, was the state’s attorney general before being elected governor and served in the Florida Senate between 1992 and 1998.  

“Charlie is a shrewd and independent-minded guy who could tackle the climate issue,” Tamminen said, adding that it’s a bonus he’s from a multicultural state in the Deep South with a mix of industries. “He has been a chief executive and knows how to make decisions. He knows you can’t stand on your soapbox, lob grenades and have the president catch them.”

Crist, he emphasized, has the chops to bargain with other likely players such as Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., John McCain, R-Ariz. and John Kerry, D-Mass.  

“When you have to tack that far to the left or right, you’re stuck,” Tamminen said about Rubio. “I’m not sure he could be a leader on climate because of his ideological stand.”

See Also:

Florida's 3-Way Race for Key Senate Seat Could Hinge on Drilling

BP Oil Spill, Gridlock in Congress, Already Shaping November Elections in 4 States

Florida Renewable Energy Plan a Job and Economy Juggernaut

Crist truly is a shameless pragmatist

While I take your point about Rubio, you have lost all but the choir, so to speak, for preaching that Rubio is a great opportunist than Crist.

One item: when it was clear that Crist would not be able to win the primary, rather than try, he bowed out.

Second item: rather than return GOP donations upon abandoning his primary race for an independent race, he told donors it was up to them to seek a return. Sounds like a "thanks for nothing, suckers" attitude to me.

Third item: since September, he has repeatedly referred to Rubio as a right wing extremist. Rhetoric, perhaps, but the clear rhetoric of a real opportunist.

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