First, the dynamics of the race. Both candidates had a relatively moderate record. Both tacked to the right in the primary, as GOP candidates are inclined to do. But Charlie Crist, the victor, had a great sin in the eyes of the Religious Right. As Attorney General, he opposed sending the police in to keep Terry Schaivo on life support.
Enter Tom Gallagher, stage left. From the Miami Herald:
Now, at age 62, Gallagher wants to be elected governor, and he wants to shatter one more thing: his moderate record.
”What makes me different? I am the most conservative candidate in this race,” he explains when asked how voters can distinguish him from his Republican primary rival, Attorney General Charlie Crist.
When he ran for governor — three times before — he campaigned as a political moderate. But now, the primary is ”a race for the soul of the Republican Party,” Gallagher said recently, and that soul cares about conservative values.
In 1994, Gallagher told The Miami Herald he was ”pro-choice,” after previously proclaiming he was pro-life. Now Gallagher calls Crist ”pro-choice” and says he is the “only pro-life candidate in the race.”
That all sounds familiar. But then he went through a “transformation”:
The transformation has been steady and gradual, said Laura Gallagher. ”I can’t take credit for the change that came when a person attends church, reads the Bible daily and prays as a family,” she said. “If you do these things, and you’re sincere about it, they’re going to change you.”
The lesson? It is hard to run a Religious Right crusade with a record as a moderate. Even when you have an issue like Terry Schaivo. And a “transformation”. Voters aren’t dumb. They smell rats and political opportunism.
Let this be a lesson to GOP candidates everywhere. Got a record? Stick by it. Got an issue/opportunity to turn on a dime? Don’t bother they’ll figure you out.
Hear that Mitt?