CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It really didnâ??t matter what Charlie Crist had to say in his much-publicized remarks to the Democratic National Committee. All signs point to Crist — former Republican governor of Florida-turned-Independent for Obama — making a comeback attempt for his old statehouse job in 2014, this time as a Democrat.
A just-completed PPP Poll showed Crist (who has yet to register as a Democrat) defeating incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott by a margin of 45 to 42 percent among likely voters statewide.
In his remarks tonight, Crist made a spirited defense of Obama and the economic stimulus package that he broke GOP ranks to support while governor. Of President Obama, the former Republican said â??Iâ??ve gotten to know the man and, while we donâ??t agree on everything, I like him.â?
Quoting his predecessor Gov. Jeb Bush that Ronald Reagan would have been â??too moderateâ? for the Republican Party of today, Crist said that â??I didnâ??t leave the Republican Party — the Republican Party left me.â?
Cristâ??s embrace of the Democratic presidentâ??s stimulus package, coupled with an actual embrace of Obama himself when the president came to Florida in 2009, began Cristâ??s eventual undoing. Once the runaway favorite for the Republican Senate nomination in 2010, the then-governorâ??s popularity plummeted after the Obama embrace. Crist eventually switched to run as an independent, and placed second in the three-candidate race won by Republican Marco Rubio.
Since then, Crist has returned to private law practice with the firm of Morgan and Morgan in St. Petersburg and he is featured in its billboards throughout the state advertising the firmâ??s services.
Along with his stand with Obama and on the stimulus packages, the former governor took positions on the environment and teacher reform that irked Republicans when he was one of them. Crist was always a fervent proponent of global warming and participated in conferences on the issue with fellow global warming backer and then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In his final year as governor, Crist won the hearts of teachersâ?? unions when he vetoed a major reform bill passed by the GOP-controlled legislature.
But Crist always has a record of positions on issues that would put him at odds with many in his newfound party if he becomes a Democrat. He always called himself pro-life, was a strong Second Amendment backer, and was once dubbed â??Chain Gang Charlieâ? for his support of chain gangs for state prisoners while governor. When Bill Clinton became embroiled in the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998, then-State Sen. And U.S. Senate nominee Crist called for his resignation as president.
Demsâ?? treatment of last GOP convert not pretty
While Republicans have more often than not embraced converts such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry or Ronald Reagan, it is a different history with the other party. The last Republican House member to switch to the Democrats, New York Rep. Michael Forbes in 1998, found his conservative voting record and high scores with groups such as the Christian Coalition highlighted in his first primary bid as a Democrat. Forbes lost.
As speculation mounts about a Crist resurrection as a Democrat, other Sunshine State Democrats interested in the governorship have made it clear they wonâ??t defer to the former governor. Narrow 2010 loser Alex Sink, the former Florida Financial Officer, and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, are among the Democrats mentioned for nomination against Scott, who has been under fire for his hard-nosed fiscal agenda and refusal to support a high-speed rail system. (Under Florida election law, the run-off was eliminated and a candidate only has to win a plurality of votes in a primary to become a nominee).
Charlie Crist didnâ??t announce any plans in Charlotte tonight. But given his tone and the level of press and political interest in him, watch him trying to be the next â??comeback kidâ? in 2014.
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