Best Political Coup (2010)

Marco Rubio takes down Charlie Crist

It's early 2009, somewhere on Florida's sun-kissed Gulf Coast, and Charlie Crist stumbles out the attic window at a house party, stares down at the drunken crowd around a pool, and screams, "I am a golden god!" Wait, maybe that's a scene from Almost Famous. Still, that pretty much sums up how Florida's crisply tanned golden boy felt 12 months ago. After winning the '06 gubernatorial election with 54 percent of the vote, the guv played it smartly moderate and watched his statewide approval ratings regularly top an astounding 60 percent. The presidential candidates were all begging for his nod of approval; a VP spot might just be on the table. And then, to keep our Almost Famous metaphor alive, came the world's most turbulent turboprop ride through a rumbling thunderstorm. McCain didn't tap him for VP. Crist's hand-chosen state GOP chairman, Jim Greer, turned out to be a credit-card-abusing fiend. And most important, the Tea Party masses rebelled over his support for Obama's stimulus package. Enter Marco Rubio, a young Cuban-American, former Florida Senate leader. In what seemed like an overnight shift, Crist's 30-point primary lead evaporated. Suddenly, Rubio the wunderkind was on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, speaking on every conservative show, and raking in thousands of dollars. By April, the tables had shockingly turned: It was now Rubio with a 20-plus-point primary lead, looking like a golden god of Florida politics. Now Charlie Crist is out of the Republican primary altogether and running for Senate as an independent. Win or lose, Rubio's rise is already a coup for the ages.


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