Charlie Crist appeared to be on the cusp of completing his most dramatic political conversion, with news emerging Monday that the former Republican governor would speak next week at the Democratic National Convention, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.
Those reports, along with an op-ed piece in the Sunday edition of the Tampa Bay Times endorsing President Barack Obama, sparked evident anger at Crist among the Florida delegation at the Republican National Convention. Or at least re-sparked the anger that the GOP has directed at Crist ever since he bolted the party in 2010 to avoid defeat in the U.S. Senate primary.
“What does he stand for other than himself?” marveled Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in remarks at the delegations’ breakfast Monday morning. “It’s unbelievable. He’ll wear any costume just to get in the parade.”
And that was the note Republicans hit over and over Monday: That Crist’s decision to go from Republican to unaffiliated in 2010, and then join Democrats for their confab two years later, is nothing more than a triumph of political expediency.
“It’s got to be a historic moment,” RPOF Chairman Lenny Curry sarcastically sneered. “A self-proclaimed Jeb Bush, self-proclaimed Ronald Reagan Republican that is on the record opposing most of the policies of President Obama is going to speak at the Democratic convention.”
And incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, drew boos when he mentioned Crist’s change of heart to the delegates, switching directions quickly after talking about Tropical Storm Isaac.
“Speaking of winds blowing and people shifting positions, the Florida Republican Party had a former member of the Republican Party by the name of Charlie Crist, who’s decided not to be a part of our party anymore,” Weatherford said as the crowd booed.
Crist’s column this past weekend shrugged off arguments that Obama hasn’t done enough to improve the economy, a major theme of the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney.
“But an element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people. … The truth is that the party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve,” Crist wrote.
The fire on Crist was only intensified when the Associated Press and ABC News reported that he would speak in Charlotte next week. But that move is in ways a counterstrike to the news that former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis, an early Obama supporter, would speak this week in Tampa.
Curry said the party doesn’t have a more developed plan, such as advertisements or other efforts, to push back on Crist’s defection. But he also didn’t rule it out.
“If Charlie Crist wants to try to play ball and rain on our parade, we’re going to respond,” Curry said, “because he’s got a record.”