From the “man hug” to full embrace, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on Sunday urged voters to support President Barack Obama in the crucial swing state where the Democratic incumbent and Republican candidate Mitt Romney remain in a razor thin race.
In an op/ed piece in the Tampa Bay Times, Crist further distanced himself from the party he stepped away from two years ago, saying Republicans have moved too far to the right and have alienated middle class Americans, women and minorities.
“I’m confident that President Barack Obama is the right leader for our state and the nation,” Crist wrote. “I applaud and share his vision of a future built by a strong and confident middle class in an economy that gives us the opportunity to reap prosperity through hard work and personal responsibility. It is a vision of the future proven right by our history.”
The GOP response to Crist’s announcement was swift and predictable, with Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry branding Crist as a turn coat and opportunist who was only concerned about his own political future.
He also blasted Crist’s timing, which came hours after Republican officials announced they were calling off Monday’s activities at the Republican National Convention because Tropical Storm Isaac was churning its way toward the state.
“Despite the threat Florida is facing from a severe storm, Charlie Crist has demonstrated, yet again, that his political ambition will always come before the needs of Floridians,” Curry said in a statement released Sunday morning.
“As the mainstream media rush to portray this as a victory for Democrats, please join me in reminding reporters and the people of Florida exactly what you and I already know; this is political opportunism, plain and simple,” Curry said.
Sunday’s endorsement marks Crist’s latest political shift after he lost the U.S. Senate race to former House Speaker Marco Rubio in 2010. Crist left the GOP and ran as an independent for that seat.
Crist earlier had joined other moderate Republicans, including former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in calling for the party to move closer to the center. The move toward the middle, which at one time seemed politically advantageous, turned sour during the tea party inspired political uprising in 2010.
Crist, a former Republican state senator, attorney general, and education commissioner found himself out of public office after the 2010 elections. Lately, rumors have abounded that he might register as a Democrat and run for governor in 2014.
Many attributed Crist’s loss to Rubio to his call for moderation and cooperation, a sentiment solidified in February 2009 when Obama and Crist hugged each other at a Fort Myers event. A Politico headline said of the moment: “When a Hug Becomes the Kiss of Death.”
–Michael Peltier, News Service of Florida