As I see it, he has two options. First, he can bow out of the primary, campaign energetically for Rubio in November, and hope the party moves to the center far enough for him to run again at some future date. Second, he can make the case that the party has gotten too extreme for him — a legitimate case, as Crist is genuinely moderate on most of the key issues — and run for Senate as an independent or as a Democrat. Neither option is particularly easy, though the second seems easier than the first.
And now it looks like Crist just might be thinking along the same lines. Apparently he plans to join President Obama for his political appearance this week in Tampa.
Marc Ambinder has his lists of potential VP picks. Here are mine:
- Senator Jim Webb (Virginia)
The only choice that makes sense. Appeals to the Appalachian demographic that has been escaping him; solidifies his national security and military credentials; makes Virginia a swing state; his Reagan administration background emphasizes how far astray Bush has led the country.
- Governor Charlie Crist (Florida)
My take on McCain’s campaign this past year is that he is desperate to win, and is willing to compromise almost anything in order to do so. The one exception is his position on what he sees to be the defining issue of our time: Islamist extremism. He believes this single issue overrides all other options. McCain is already focusing on Florida and trying to undermine Obama in the Jewish community there. Picking the popular governor would almost guarantee him this perennial swing state. Also an important factor: picking Crist would protect his right flank and placate social conservatives. Apparently, I’m a dumbass and got my facts wrong here. Crist is a social conservative, but an “uncomfortable” one, having campaign as pro-choice before he became pro-life. Another major negative: he, like McCain, is really old.
- Governor Mitt Romney (Massachusetts)
A pick who would placate movement conservatives, bring him a substantial fundraiser, and someone who can speak convincingly on the economy. By picking Romney, McCain is indicating that he is giving his campaign over to the “movement.”
- Senator Joe Lieberman (Connecticut)
Risking the alienation of social conservatives, the Lieberman choice would be bold and would put McCain in the best spot to win the presidency. He would be demonstrating that his presidency would be about the War Against Terrorism as well as his bipartisan bona fides. The boldest move, but also the one McCain would be under enormous pressure not to make. If McCain really believes this election should be about Iraq and terrorism, and if he wants to win on these issues, he should pick Lieberman. He won’t however.