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Annette Taddeo-Goldstein a Bad Choice to Rev Up Charlie Crist's Stalled Campaign

July 16, 2014 - 6:00pm
Charlie Crist tried to restart his increasingly stalled campaign against Rick Scott on Thursday by naming Annette Taddeo-Goldstein as his running mate.

Crist's move reeks of political desperation, especially considering the former Republican governor has seen his double-digit lead in the polls over Scott vanish. Nan Rich remains an underdog in the Democratic primary against Crist, but she continues to do some damage, especially because Crist has gone out of his way not to debate her.

Most gubernatorial candidates name their running mates after the primary. Thats what Crist did when he plucked Jeff Kottkamp to be his understudy in 2006. Scott selected Jennifer Carroll after his primary battle with Bill McCollum in 2010. True, Alex Sink chose Rod Smith before the primary in 2010, but she had no major Democratic opponents.

But Crist sped things up and picked Taddeo-Goldstein on Thursday. Its pretty telling that the Crist team tried to strike the Goldstein out of her name on Thursday and bill her as Annette Taddeo. The pick is Crists latest attempt to get Hispanics in his column instead of behind Scott.

The move is also purely political. Liberals continue to have their problems with Crist, who held three statewide offices as a Republican. Taddeo-Goldsteins claim to political fame is leading the Miami-Dade Democrats. Shes never once held elected office, though she did help launch LanguageSpeak, a small business focusing on translation. Besides trying to rally Hispanics to his banner, Crist is also looking to reassure party activists that hes one of them, despite joining the party only a year and a half ago.

There are some downsides to the pick. Taddeo-Goldstein has had no success when she aimed for higher office.

In 2008, she was the Democratic nominee for Congress in South Florida's 18th District, receiving more votes than any other Democrat who's run in that district, the Crist team boasted of Taddeo-Goldsteins bid against Ileana Ros-Lehtinen that year. Taddeo-Goldstein managed to get 41 percent in a good year for Democrats. Barack Obama pulled 51 percent in that district in the same election.

Taddeo-Goldstein might also not be the unifying figure Crist needs to attract members of his new party. In the running to be state chairwoman of the Florida Democrats, Taddeo-Goldstein ran afoul of Debbie Wasserman Schultz who backed Allison Tant. Tellingly, Wasserman Schultz, who leads the DNC, did not do much for Taddeo-Goldstein back in 2008, either.

Naming a running mate comes off as Crist trying to change the subject and an effort to get the party behind him despite the primary and his refusal to debate Rich. This move will only inflame Rich supporters, angry about Crist acting as if the primary is a coronation.

At the same time, Republicans will call out the move as purely political and will wonder if a small-business founder and party boss can lead the state if something were to happen to Crist. Look at Crists history. He never bothered to run for re-election for any of the three statewide offices he held. Having twice tried to move to the U.S. Senate, Crist could be looking at it again in 2016 if Marco Rubio ends up on the Republican presidential ticket. Taddeo-Goldsteins lack of experience is fair game for Republicans.

Crists pick shows he is trying to win Democrats over. With Rich being, at best, a minor threat in the primary, Crists new running mate shows he is still trying to inspire the Democratic base. This could be a big mistake for Crist as polls show Scott has come back by winning independents. This might help Crist turn things around with Hispanics -- though Scott has a good understudy there in Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Rick Scott started the 2014 election as one of the most unpopular governors in the nation and far behind in the polls against Crist. One of the arguments Crist supporters made was their candidate could win over independents, rally moderate Republicans away from Scott and hold Democrats in line because they despise Scott so much. Polls show Republicans are staying with Scott while the governor now leads Crist with independents.

The fact Crist went with a party boss for his running mate should raise questions about his standing with the Democratic base. Crists choice was made in a position of weakness instead of strength and wont help him turn things around with independent voters.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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