Charlie Crist is running against Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate.
Rubio is running against President Obama, from whom Crist is running away.
That became clear in the opening minutes of today's debate. It was enough to show why more and more Republicans are siding with Rubio over Crist. Crist would be in better shape if the election were about tax returns or big pay days while serving in public office. But that's not what Republican voters (the only ones who can vote in Crist v. Rubio) seem to care about right now. The Republican primary election isn't about how the state needed the stimulus ObamaBucks or how many jobs it has saved.
It's all about anger at Obama. That's whom Rubio focused on, save a few rearguard swipes at Crist. In case anyone forgot that Crist appeared on stage with Obama in support of the stimulus, Rubio made sure to bring it up. Sure, the tide of the election could change (Rubio once played longshot to Crist's juggernaut, after all). Crist could start spending some of his big money to even the odds. Crist might get some mileage out of a potential Rubio Social Security slip-up (at least in the general election). Ultimately, Crist wants to make Tea Party Rubio run against Deal Maker Rubio. But will it be enough to make Republicans forget the Obama manhug?
Remember what Sarah Palin said the other day in paraphrasing La. Gov. Bobby Jindal: This is the party of hell no. That means "concession" is a dirty word -- one used in Crist's last state of the state speech. Fox helpfully highlighted it during the debate. Moderator Chris Wallace hit the nail on the head when he asked Rubio if his stance was a recipe for "gridlock." It essentially is. That's what this electorate wants when it comes to Obama. Check out the clip, displayed during the debate, of Jeb Bush talking about Crist's "unforgivable" support of the stimulus. (Apparently his brother's bank bailout was just great).
Crist did a yeoman's job explaining his difference of opinion with "my friend Jeb Bush." But as they say in politics: When you're explaining, you're losing.