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Crist or Kerry?

6:35 PM, Nov 5, 2009 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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Remember the 2004 GOP convention? When delegates from the floor roared "flip-flop" at every mention of John Kerry's name? It's hard to imagine a politician in recent days who had such a well-deserved reputation for waffling. Recall his position on the war supplemental in October 2003: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."

Florida governor Charlie Crist seems eager to give Kerry contest -- only he hasn't yet acknowledged the flip-flop. Which, in a way, makes it worse.

Crist was a well known supporter of Barack Obama's $787 stimulus bill. He spoke out in favor of it. He backed it in media appearances. He said he would have voted for it. He even appeared with the president at an event to tout the measure.

But Crist is running for Senate. And with a strong primary challenge from a rising-star conservative in Marco Rubio, Crist abruptly changed his position.

"I didn't endorse it," Crist said in an appearance on CNN with Wolf Blitzer. "I -- you know, I didn't even have a vote on the darned thing. But I understood that it was going to pass and I wanted to be able to utilize it for the benefit of my fellow Floridians."

It's fair for Crist to say now that he wished he hadn't endorsed it -- and given the increasingly dubious claims of actual stimuli in the stimulus, that might be the wise course. But he cannot say he didn't endorse it.

This comes from a letter Crist signed (PDF available at www.flarecovery.gov) on February 3. It is addressed to President Obama.

We are writing to express our support for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which passed last week in the House and is under consideration currently in the Senate. As stewards of the economies of our respective states and regions, we urge the Congress to reach prompt resolution of all outstanding differences and you to sign the bill when it reaches your desk.

Why would Crist support Obama back in early February and seek to distance himself from the president now? Perhaps because conservative Republicans won gubernatorial races in two states Tuesday that Obama had won convincingly? Or was it Obama? According to the Gallup daily tracking poll, Obama's job approval from February 1-3 was 65 percent, with only 20 percent disapproving. Today, Obama's approval is down to 52 percent, with 42 opposed, and in that time Republican approval of Obama has dropped from more than 40 percent to just 18 percent.

Rather than pretending he didn't support the stimulus, Crist would be much better off just being honest with voters. John Kerry might put it this way: "I actually did support the stimulus before I came out against it."