Florida’s Crist may run again; GOP says it’s ready

The former Republican tweeted that he was switching parties

Topics: Charlie Crist, From the Wires, Democrats, 2014 elections, Florida,

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Now that former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is a Democrat, pretty much everyone in Florida’s political world expects him to seek his old job.

“I will consider it, and I will think about it,” Crist told The Associated Press by phone while boating off of Miami and before a planned dinner Saturday evening with former Democratic governor and Sen. Bob Graham.

The former Republican governor revealed his long-anticipated conversion Friday, after more than two years as an independent. He made the announcement on Twitter and included a photo of his new voter registration form, which he filled out at the White House.

Earlier Saturday, Florida Republicans gathered for a meeting and said they will be extra motivated to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott if his opponent is Crist, who left the GOP during his 2010 run for Senate.

“Bring it on,” Peter Feaman, the party’s national committeeman, told a room of Republican activists. “That man sat at my house, in my kitchen, at my breakfast table and told me he was a Ronald Reagan Republican. OK, I’m putting my boots on, because guess what? You lied to me.”

Should the 56-year-old Crist run, he could become the first person to run for Florida governor as a Republican and as a Democrat. Crist only served one term before choosing to run for Senate instead of re-election.

Republicans, anticipating the switch, have been attacking him for months. As Crist campaigned with President Barack Obama and other Democrats during the fall, Republicans ran a television ad and issued scores of press releases pointing out his previous conservative positions.

“I really feel at home. A lot of it was inspired by what Democrats have stood for, and honestly, friends have told me most of my political life, ‘Charlie, you’re really a Democrat and you just don’t know it,” Crist said.

Crist was a moderate governor and met often with Democratic leaders. At dinners in the governor’s mansion, he includes both Republicans and Democrats at his head table. He endeared himself to the teachers union by vetoing a Republican priority bill that would have stripped teachers of tenure and based merit raises on test scores. He also won over many black leaders by championing civil rights issues, prompting one black lawmaker to describe him as the first black governor.



Since leaving the GOP, Crist, who called himself “the people’s governor” while in office, has criticized the party for going too far to the right. Crist has already criticized Scott for refusing to extend early voting despite pleas from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and other Democrats.

“The leadership of the party lately has gone off the cliff, I wasn’t comfortable enough,” Crist said. “What I love most about our state is our people … I just have a feeling in my heart right now that leadership doesn’t appreciate that fact.”

Crist was elected governor in 2006 as a Republican, succeeding two-term Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. A popular governor and considered one of the best campaigners in the state, Crist used his charisma and feel-good messages to win over voters.

But many conservatives became disenchanted with Crist after he hugged President Barack Obama at a rally to push for the $787 billion stimulus package, which passed in 2009 with virtually no Republican support.

Although Crist was the early favorite for a U.S. Senate seat in 2010, conservatives began to rally around the bid of Marco Rubio in the 2010 GOP primary, prompting Crist’s independent bid.

If he runs for his old job, Crist will have better name recognition than any other Democrat seeking the governor’s seat, including former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, who lost a hard-fought campaign to Scott.

Scott’s approval ratings haven’t come close to what Crist had in office. Scott, a former hospital chain CEO and tea party favorite who never ran for office before spending nearly $80 million of his and his family’s money to win election, isn’t considered a natural politician. He can be an awkward speaker, and it has taken a while for him to grow comfortable in the spotlight.

But that doesn’t mean Crist would have an easy time winning. During primary elections, only about 20 percent of voters turn out, and they are the most faithful in the party. Activists on both sides will remember the many elections in which they fought Crist, who often called himself a Ronald Reagan and Jeb Bush Republican.

“We’re going to be ready to play ball,” said Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry, noting that Crist previously praised former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, criticized Obama and held conservative views on abortion.

And it’s not easy switching parties after reaching political success. After nearly three decades as a Republican U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic party rather than face a potentially uphill primary battle against a conservative challenger in 2010. Obama and Senate Democrats welcomed him, but Specter lost in that year’s Democratic primary to Rep. Joe Sestak, who went on to lose in the fall to Republican Pat Toomey. Then there’s former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who won office as a Democrat and then lost his 1992 re-election bid as a Republican.

“The strong Democrats are the ones that vote in the non-presidential year, and they’re the ones that are most likely to have a problem with Crist,” said Democratic pollster David Beattie.

Beattie, however, said Crist has been smart about the transition because he got people used to the idea of him being a Democrat. After losing his independent bid for Senate, he began doing public events with Democrats. His wife, Carole, switched from Republican to Democrat. Then he began backing Democratic candidates in Florida, then Obama. And he spoke at last summer’s Democratic National Convention.

“There are a lot of people who say, ‘Oh, I thought he did that a long time ago,’” Beattie said. “I don’t think he’s stopped campaigning over the last two years.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>