Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlie Crist's campaign for U.S. Senate put out an unequivocal statement last week. He's running as a Republican:
"To put these rumors to rest once and for all, as we have said countless times before, Governor Crist is running for the United States Senate as a Republican. He will not run as an Independent or as a No Party Affiliation.
(Hat tip: Political Wire)
That settled the issue -- for about six days. Now, everyone is talking about Crist bolting the Republican Party all over gain.
The lesson here is that Shermanesque isn't good enough anymore. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she isn't running for president again. General David Petraeus says he'll never run for president. Yet the press doesn't believe them.
And, it's hard to blame the press for that. After all, Hillary Clinton wouldn't be the first candidate to run for president after pledging not to do so. She wouldn't even be the first one named Clinton. Officeholders always say they're not going to switch parties until they do. Why should we trust Crist?
At the same time, it's hard not to sympathize a little bit with the politicians. They have to answer the same questions over and over again. The rumors of an independent bid have done real harm to Crist's efforts to court Republicans in the primary.
I think I have the answer to this problem. The key is for politicians to say more than, "I'm not going to do X." The key is for them to say something that would make doing X political suicide.
For example, imagine if Charlie Crist said the following, preferably in front of lots of T.V. cameras:
I've said a million times that I'm not running for Senate as an independent or a Democrat. After saying that so many times, if I were to run for Senate as an independent or a Democrat that would make me a liar and a fraud. I'd deserve to be laughed off of the political stage because I would have lied to the people of Florida over and over and over again. To make this even more clear: You should not vote for me if I run as a Democrat or an independent. You probably shouldn't even shake my hand.
Now then, would anyone think Crist was considering a run as an independent or Democrat after he said that? There's no way he could have a change of heart. The story would be dead.
Let's try one for Petraeus:
I don't know anything about the economy -- or any domestic issue for that matter. I don't have the vaguest interest in learning about domestic issues either. Health care? I don't care. Education? I don't care. Transportation? I don't care. I'd be completely and utterly unqualified to serve as president. I'd probably be the worst president ever. The America people would have to be a bunch of idiots to elect me to be president.
That one would be a little bit over the top. Petraeus probably doesn't believe he'd be the worst president ever. He probably does have some knowledge and interest in domestic issues. Still, it would get the job done -- if he really wants the questions to go away.
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