Ding or death knell? Voters will decide.
By Chris Ingram
It comes as no surprise that the Charlie Crist campaign or someone associated with it released Marco Rubio’s Republican Party of Florida corporate American Express card statements to the media. As a result, Rubio “came clean” and admitted his own inappropriate charges yesterday. Now take note, the inappropriate charges weren’t for strip clubs or trips to Europe, but rather for things like fixing the wife’s minivan and purchasing supplies at a lumber company; things that hardly fall into the category of legitimate Republican Party expenses. While this certainly puts a dent in the armor of Rubio’s Boy Scout image, it probably isn’t the smoking gun Chuckles the Clown needs to completely derail Rubio’s campaign.
Still, for many Rubio supporters they will be asking themselves “is this guy who he purports himself to be, or is he just another typical politician?”
While Rubio demonstrated poor judgment in using an RPOF provided Amex card for personal expenses, it should be noted he probably did not break the law. Further poor judgment was shown when Rubio failed to own up to the issue and release this bad news on his own terms, prior to his political adversaries showing his hand. Politics 101 dictates if you have bad news and you know your opponent knows your bad news, you release it on your own terms and you do it early. Marco’s arrogance and inexperience got in the way of following this dictum. Or did he think Jim Greer and company were nice guys who would never expose Marco’s card problems?
So now “Team Bankrupt America” (aka: the Crist campaign) slips a few card statements to the media and what does Rubio do? He cries foul play as if releasing the statements is somehow worse than the charges. Come on Marco, get with the program. You had to know this was coming and you could have and should have owned up to it a long time ago. Did you think Jim Greer was shredding your statements when the shredder truck pulled up to RPOF headquarters on his last day in office?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Marco Rubio isn’t perfect.
Rubio has demonstrated amateurishness in his campaign multiple times. This is in my opinion due in large part because he has never lost an election. Having never lost, and having risen to power so young and so quickly has made Marco think he is invincible and that he knows everything. Obviously Marco has a lot to learn. Hopefully he’ll get some adults working on his campaign soon and fewer “yes” men and more people who will tell him what he needs to hear, not what he wants to hear. We as voters need politicians to tell us what we need, not what we want, and so too does Marco Rubio.
Still, not all is bad. Rubio’s fundraising has been far greater than expected, and his “earned media” the last few weeks has been tremendously positive, save for today’s news and that little incident with the dead pig a few weeks ago.
But Rubio and his campaign continue to struggle.
Instead of continuing to act like the underdog, he’s marching forward as though he’s got this race in the bag. But poll numbers change and fortunes in politics tend to fall twice as fast as they rise. This is a hard fact that is difficult to impress upon someone who has never lost an election and who is currently 18 points up in the polls.
The best thing going for Marco is he is the greatest communicator in the Republican Party today. He knows how to deliver a line and fire up a crowd. He is the closest thing to Ronald Reagan the party has seen since, well, Ronald Reagan. But one-on-one, Rubio is not comfortable in his own skin. At events where Charlie Crist is running around smiling at everyone, asking them their names, and making pointless small-talk to make them feel good, Rubio is in a corner somewhere with his I-phone chatting or texting away. Just last week a prominent elected official from the Tampa Bay area told me he saw Rubio at an event in Tampa. He said Marco was off to himself with cell phone in hand all but ignoring a cadre of potential influential supporters. The elected official told me, “I’m leaning toward voting for Marco not because I love Rubio, but because Charlie Crist has shown no leadership and I’ve had enough of Charlie. Marco had a chance to talk to me to seal the deal and he blew the opportunity. ” And so, potential still exists for Charlie “Republcan Bill Clinton” Crist. I’ve heard similar sentiments from countless others.
Another problem is in Rubio’s organization. His campaign team lacks leadership and people with the skills to recognize their weaknesses and address them as a business with a failing product line would by making changes. Denials and lame excuses will only carry you so far with voters. Making necessary changes to the product or assembly line will carry you over the finish line. But hey, I should love these guys, whenever I get mail from the campaign it is addressed to “Dr. Chris Ingram” (even though I am not a doctor and I never played one on TV).
On the other hand, he still has an advantage in as much as people are still very tired of Too-tan Charlie. But the “hug” and the stimulus issue is only going to get Rubio a few more First Downs, and never a score. This fact is primarily due to Rubio yanking it from the playbook when he said he would have accepted stimulus money. Charlie’s achilles last year was the hug. But it peaked too soon and the heel is now healing. Rubio needs to prove to voter’s he’s the man to address the issues — not just show that Charlie Crist is not.
Still, while not perfect, Rubio represents a clear choice for Floridians. That choice is between a status quo pushing, establishment-loving, liberal in a Republican’s suit who speaks in platitudes about “the people” so much you want to puke versus an imperfect but young, energetic, “American Dream” candidate with fresh ideas for America’s future.
Marco’s youth and inexperience as a candidate relative to Chuckles is a strength as much as a weakness. A weakness for the mistakes he’s making now, but also strength in that he will, like a bottle of wine, improve over time. The seal on Charlie Crist’s bottle has long since been broken and his wine has slowly begun to turn to vinegar.
Charlie is what he is: forever just another empty suit.
The Rubio Amex story as reported in the St. Pete Times can be found here.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of www.IrreverentView.com. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, Front Page Florida, and National Review online. E-mail him at: Chris@IrreverentView.com.
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