A smart politician does the right thing when it helps his side.
Charlie Crist is a smart politician.
The loooong lines at the Florida polls were making people wonder what was wrong (again!) with the state's voting officials. One reason for the long lines was that the legislature changed the rules to reduce the hours and locations — a combination of penny pinching and the historical GOP bias against making it easy for the riff-raff to vote. So it was popular politics for the would-be post-partisan Governor (but see his judicial appointments!!!) to do whatever it took to restore some sanity by extending polling hours to 12 hours per day from the artificially short six hours in most locations.
Lost in all the kudos for the Governor's act of sanity (has it come to this? the government does the obvious and necessary and the Herald's local columnist falls over herself praising it? ) is the political calculation undoubtedly behind this move. Never forget that Charlie Crist is one smart calculating politician: you don't move from “Chain Gang Charlie” to Mr. (attempted) Middle-of-the-Road without a keen sense of how the wind blows.
Now, imagine you are a Republican who believes that his political chances will be best helped by carrying his state for the GOP, or failing that by being seen to have gone the extra mile for the ticket. It's true that having McCain/Palin win the election is bad for your long-term future, but there's so little chance of that happening that you can afford to make a big Florida push.
What are you afraid of? The biggest thing on your mind is that the GOP vote is going to stay home. You're worried they're going to stay home because they never liked John McCain anyway. You're worried they're going to stay home because they think Sarah Palin is unfit to command. You're worried they're going to stay home because the polls suggest that the state and the nation are lost. And, to top it off, you're worried they're going to stay home because with all this baggage weighing the ticket down, a measurable fraction of the GOP vote is going to stay home because it doesn't want to stand in line for three hours. (Anecdotal evidence suggests, that the average Obama voter is more energized about the ticket than the average GOP voter, so the long lines just make matters worse.)
So of course Charlie Crist did what he had to do to shorten the poll lines. It was smart politics. And self-interested too.
I disagree. The idea that long waits hurt the GOP is probably incorrect. In general, GOP areas have more polling machines and shorter wait times. The areas most likely to be helped by this are pro-Obama areas. In addition, this cannot be for the appearance of having helped McCain-Palin, because their people have been privately annoyed in interviews. In other words, even if this REALLY did help the GOP, key figures in the GOP appear to believe that it HURTS them.
I think a better explanation is the reverse — this is an attempt by Crist to take over the “integrity” mantle in the GOP. He can say he did the right thing, regardless of political consequences — even though we all know Florida was lost to McCain anyway (and wouldn’t win him the election even if it went for him). Crist is positioning himself as a more electable alternative to people like Huckabee (or Palin) in 2012.
I have to admit, you have a pretty persuasive argument there.