My grandfather always said that after three days, houseguests and fish start to smell the same. I guess in the case of Florida and the presidential election, it's three months.
It's been close to three months since Rudy Giuliani declared that his road to the White House marched up the Florida Turnpike. And now Governor Charlie Crist has said, "Hey Rudy, it's been nice having you here. If you could take the sheets off the bed and put them in the laundry hamper on your way out the door, we'd appreciate it."
How else can we read Crist's endorsement of Sen. John McCain to be the Republican nominee yesterday? He's saying to Giuliani that it's time to pack your bags, get on that Fort Lauderdale to JFK flight on JetBlue, and head back to New York and the private sector.
All those cafe con leches and all that key lime pie didn't mean much to Florida's political establishment.
This comes as something of a shock to Team Rudy. Giuliani believed he had brought the best possible gift to his hosts - a promise that he'll set up a National Catastrophic Insurance Fund for the hurricane-prone state, which is Crist's favorite policy hobby horse. By promising to help property-owners recover their losses from big storms, Giuliani was convinced that he'd get Floridians, including Crist, in his pocket.
After all, according to Giuliani, McCain says that he's opposed to a national catastrophe fund. How could Crist, or Floridians, support a candidate who opposes one of their top national policy priorities?
Instead, it's apparently been more like Hurricane Rudy moving up the length of the peninsula. Most Floridians have simply been ducking for cover, waiting for the storm to pass, and hoping the Spanish tiles will still be up on their rooftops when it's over.
The calculation here seems to be one of viability. According to Fox News, Crist had promised Giuliani an endorsement until New Hampshire, where the New Yorker finished so poorly in the polls. And so it appears that Rudy's last one out of the gate, first one across the finish line strategy caused Crist and other Republican Party leaders to question his real chances of picking up across the country.
But what's most significant about this endorsement is what it means for McCain. As a former official in the Jeb Bush administration, Crist is closer to the Bush dynasty than many of McCain's supporters. Crist's thumbs up will allow the Arizona senator to put on the mantle of true conservative and party leader with the backing of his party's power structure. And if Crist can help McCain appear closer to the Bush family and their core Republican supporters, it will allow him to once and for all overcome the argument that he only gets the votes of independents and moderate Republicans. That's what he must do if he's going to build the coalition he needs to credibly claim he can defeat the Democrats in November.
Cross-posted from The Right's Field.