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With the passing of Jerry Falwell and the rise of Rudy Giuliani, is the Republican Party moving to the center while the Democratic Party moves to the left?

That’s my nightmare scenario. Because the party of the center usually wins: witness Republicans in the 70s and 80s and Democrats in the 90s.

I’ve reassured myself that’s there no way the GOP will nominate a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, squishy-on-abortion presidential candidate. But why does Rudy keep leading the polls?

Now there’s more reason to worry because of Florida and California. Not just that both states have moved up their presidential primaries. But also that both states have Republican governors who aren’t governing like Republicans.

Everybody knows about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s transformation from macho-talking Republican to Democratic fellow traveler.

But not as many know about what Charlie Crist is doing to follow Jeb Bush in Florida. Mainly, he’s doing everything opposite of Jeb. Letting felons vote. Taking on corporate interests. Endorsing Democratic causes like paper ballots. Talking about global warming.

The result: Crist has approval ratings in the 70s. And he’s being talked about as a national candidate – something the Austrian-born Arnold can’t do.

Crist figured out how to win election in Florida last year against a Democratic tide. Partly he did it by ducking an election-eve trip by President Bush.

When the other side starts stealing your issues, you can take it as a compliment. Or take it as a threat to be watched. We’d better watch.

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