Crist — Florida’s former Republican governor who relished the tough-on-crime nickname “Chain Gang Charlie” and used to describe himself variously as a “Ronald Reagan Republican” and a “Jeb Bush Republican” — on Friday evening signed papers changing his party from independent to Democrat.
He did so during a Christmas reception at the White House, where President Barack Obama greeted the news with a fist bump for the man who had a higher profile campaigning for Obama’s reelection this year than any Florida Democrat.
The widely expected move positions Crist, 56, for another highly anticipated next step: announcing his candidacy for governor, taking on Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and an untold number of Democrats who would challenge him for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
“I’ve had friends for years tell me, ‘You know Charlie, you’re a Democrat and you don’t know it,’ ” Crist, a career-long populist, recounted Friday night from Washington, D.C.
Crist has been registered with no party affiliation since the spring of 2010, when his Republican candidacy for U.S. Senate was fizzling against Republican upstart Marco Rubio. Since losing that race, he has been steadily inching toward the Democratic party, first when his wife Carole switched her affiliation to Democrat and later when he threw himself into Obama’s reelection campaign, earning a prominent speaking slot during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. More from Adam Smith here.