TALLAHASSEE — Midway through his term, Gov. Charlie Crist finds his sunny optimism tested almost daily. But the Republican governor keeps smiling. And with good reason.
He orchestrated passage of a constitutional amendment mandating the largest property-tax cut in state history. He spent last summer basking in the flattery of rumor as a possible running mate for John McCain, and ended nearly three decades of bachelorhood last month by marrying New York socialite Carole Rome.
And yet, while the public consistently gives him high approval ratings, his policy record after two years on the job is a decidedly mixed bag.
In the past year, Crist promised to send ''a sonic boom'' through the economy with the property-tax cut, bring in new revenue with an Indian gambling agreement, cut property insurance rates and create new jobs through accelerated spending on public works programs. In his 2007 inaugural address, he pledged ''secure work with good pay'' and "world-class schools.''
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But his promises have gone largely unfulfilled. The national recession converged with Florida's collapsing housing market to produce the highest unemployment rate in 15 years, the highest job losses of any state, and deep cuts in public education to balance a faltering budget.
Despite those setbacks, opinion polls show Crist's approval ratings pegged in the high 60s among people of all political stripes, even when a majority say the state is headed in the wrong direction. A common explanation: ''The guy is a masterful politician,'' said Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg.
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