The White House has just announced something of a political coup: When President Obama holds a town hall in Fort Myers, Fla. on Tuesday, the man introducing him will be Gov. Charlie Crist, a prominent Republican.
Last year, Crist was being discussed as a possible running mate for then-presidential candidate John McCain. But the governor has never been terribly shy about bucking his party, and that’s true of this issue as well — even as Republicans in Congress have unified in opposition to the stimulus, Crist has come out in favor of the package. That’s not terribly surprising. Crist doesn’t have the luxury of playing to the GOP base by opposing the stimulus; like his fellow governors, he risks paying a heavy political cost for a poor economy. He needs federal money to keep his state running and his approval rating up.
Still, even though Crist’s support for the bill was already public, his appearance at the town hall will be important for Obama. It makes the president look bipartisan, and it makes the congressional GOP look like they’re off on the fringe, too extreme even for senior elected officials in their own party.