By Roger Stone Anyone who has followed the STONEzone knows that I am a strong supporter of Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Governor Crist has the same affability and genial optimism of my former boss, Ronald Reagan. Crist also has Reagan's flexibility that often allowed the President to get 70% of his agenda achieved through the art of compromise as opposed to standstill Government and the kind of lack of progress we see in Congress.

Rothstein: Crist appointments excellent
Crist's appointments have been excellent if bi-partisan. My friend Scott Rothstein, who heads the Rothstein Rosenfeldt and Adler law firm which sponsors the STONEzone, notes that Governor Crist's judicial appointments have been uniformly excellent. Crist's support of voting machines with a paper-record, to ensure that all elections are both fair and honest, contrast with Jeb Bush who resisted such accountability. Where Reagan was surprisingly a bold environmentalist as Governor of California, saving open space, preserving the Redwoods after scaling down the size of Redwood National park and cleaning the Golden state's polluted Rivers, Crist has been prepared to take bold risks to protect the future purity of Florida's drinking water and is moving to restore the aquifer of the Everglades and to clean and revitalize the State's major lakes. Deteriorating State finances won't allow the larger acquisition of US Sugar and all of its environmentally-sensitive land. The Governor has shown the flexibility to make a smaller but highly beneficial deal under changing circumstances. The new 75,000 acre deal is extremely beneficial to the State of Florida and put's the State in the position - as finances improve - to secure additional Everglades land and continue to expand this crucial natural water-purifying asset. Crist, in the end, engineered a deal in which the State acquired 75,000 acres to convert to reservoirs and pollution treatment marshes. The Sugar Company must pay to ensure that the environmental quality of the land is pristine when the state takes ultimate possession. The Governor's commitments to pursing his vision for Everglades's restoration incrementally given the State's financial problems show his commitment. Charlie Crist has already proven his persistence.

Crist: At the crossroads
Crist would have been a stronger Vice Presidential pick for Senator John McCain than the untested but talented Governor Sarah Palin. Crist's brand of post-partisan and inclusive politics is a sure fire way for Republicans to win the votes of Democrats and Independents. Now polling shows that Crist could easily be elected to another term as Governor or to the U.S. Senate in 2010. Those same polls show that Crist, while popular with Republicans, has experienced some erosion of support from Conservatives, although high popularity among Democrats and Independents makes this moot - in a General Election. A bid for a second term as Governor and a race for the U.S. Senate are very different races. I have little doubt that Charlie Crist can avoid a nuisance Primary in a campaign to return to Tallahassee. Crist would easily repeal any Primary challenger and would beat State CFO Alex Sink. A Republican Primary for the U.S. Senate will be a more ideological contest and Crist is likely to get a second-tier but viable Primary opponent. Veteran Bush fundraiser Ann Herberger is telling people that candidate is former Florida Speaker, Marco Rubio. It isn't. Rubio won't really stick to take on the extremely well funded Governor; Crist will have the fulcrum of the Governor's chair for fundraising for a U.S. Senate war chest. I fear a challenger on the right, while unable to match Crist's fundraising prowess will still have adequate funding to embarrass and perhaps damage the Governor. More importantly today's polls cannot reflect the impact of the argument that Crist should remain as Governor and finish the excellent job he has begun rather than skip off to Washington. Crist may have a hard time explaining how he intends to keep his pledge to "make State property taxes drop like a stone," from a lofty chair in Washington. Clearly the Governor's popularity can be ju-jitsued against him by whipping up a campaign to make his stay as Governor and finish the job. The Democrats have no obvious strong candidate for the U.S. Senate but the nomination will be well worth having if Crist wins a primary more narrowly than expected. Behind an approval rating in the high sixties, slightly more than one third of Florida voters rate Charlie Crist very favorably while another third view him only somewhat favorably. There is some definite softness among the Governor's supporters. A larger concern of mine is that a U.S. Senate race would short-circuit a Crist Presidential bid in 2012 or beyond. Crist will find that the fundraising base for a junior U.S. Senator does not match that of a sitting Governor in a game which is very, very expensive. Neither do voters see energy coming from the Federal Capitol while individual .innovative post-partisan leaders like Crist, Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg are popular. Tallahassee is a better place to launch a Presidential bid from both technically and financially. The other great concern I would have if I were the Governor is the economic quicksand on which his gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe sits and its impact on Florida's economy. While the Indians are undoubtedly entitled to slot machines for which they are willing to pay the State, the inclusion of so-called "banked" card games in the compact, which are illegal under Florida law, virtually guaranteed State Supreme Court rejection and ambiguity in Washington about the legality of the Seminole's card games. More importantly the Seminoles stopped paying the State of Florida while continuing to run card games they are not legally entitled to under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Now the Governor is trying to coax the Legislature into approving his compact. It is unlikely that the Legislature can legally do so without changing Florida's current law which specifically outlines the illegality of "banked" card games. Failure to do this will simply guarantee additional court challenges with enough merit to put revenues from gaming in doubt for a long time. Far more troubling is a little noticed U.S. Supreme Court decision a few weeks ago that held that no Indian Tribe recognized after 1934 was eligible to have land held in trust for them - meaning the Seminoles are currently gaming on land which is illegal. The Seminole's lawyers assure them that the law only effects the Tribe's acquisition of land for gaming in Coconut Creek, Florida because the land- to- trust process is not completed. The Court said nothing of the kind. In fact the Court did not speak to the question of what should happen to thousands of Indian casinos operating on land that was not legally taken into trust on their behalf according to this Court decision. The Seminole's lawyers are assuming the Court will take no action if and when the proper lawsuit challenging the Seminole's gaming is filed. I would make no such assumption having reviewed the decision. Thus, any reliance by Governor Crist in this budget or future year's budget, that includes revenues from the Seminoles, would be unrealistic. I have also been critical on these pages of Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, a bumbling former restaurateur with delusions of grandeur but no political experience or finesse. My fear is that Greer, a joke in national GOP circles, both reflects badly on the Governor and has or will do something illegal with State Party funds to embarrass the Governor and hurt his chances to run for higher office. Greer's refusal to detail $600,000 worth of charter aircraft time paid for by the RPOF, to conceal his personal use of a jet when a commercial ticket would have cost the GOP far less, is now compounded by the Governor's desire to hide behind the same inadequate state disclosure laws where which Greer shields his spending habits with State GOP money. Disclosing what is legally required and full disclosure is not the same thing for an Administration that prides its self on its transparency. The Democrats will keep this issue alive. I attended the Republican Governor's conference in Miami several months ago. As a veteran of eight National Republican Presidential campaigns, I measured each of the Republican Governor's to see if our Party has a Presidential candidate. Only Charlie Crist has the grace and political dexterity for a Presidential run. He communicates the sunny optimism of a Ronald Reagan and quenches the public's thirst for a leader who will put the people before partisanship. Crist needs to achieve his bold and impressive agenda for Florida and keep his pledges to make both property taxes and insurance rates drop and restore the Everglades. With that, he is ready for the Casablanca. FOOTNOTE: Hubris is the only other impediment to a National political career by Governor Crist. Although he is widely popular with the public, the political class is growingly unhappy by the failure of the Governor and his top advisors inside and outside government to return their phone calls and deal with their special needs. Failure to tend this political base because you are mesmerized by your own popularity is an error that can be fatal.