Charlie Crist told the people in the crowd to stand up. They did.
“Now please sit down,” he said. They complied again.
“Look how much power I have over you, and I haven’t even won yet,” Crist joked, drawing laughs — and ultimately a landslide of votes — to win his first election as student council president.
Many years and elections later, we see the same old Crist. Friendly, with a knack for winning a crowd.
But nowadays, he’s trying to move the masses in a far more difficult way — as an author explaining his party-switching in his new book The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.
Starting with the title, the 341-page book reinvents some of Crist’s history.
Crist didn’t leave the Republican Party because it was “hijacked.” He bolted because he was going to lose a Republican U.S. Senate primary to Marco Rubio.
It was political survival. For Crist to suggest otherwise plays right into long-standing criticisms of him: that he’ll say anything to get elected.
No matter what Crist said or did in 2010, it didn’t work at the polls. After becoming an independent, he ultimately lost in the three-way Senate race. He registered as a Democrat shortly after helping President Barack Obama win reelection in 2012.
In his book, Crist emphasizes his close ties to Obama. Crist downplays his prior criticisms of the president and his polices, highlights his centrist record and overall portrays himself as a moderate stranger in a strange conservative land.
Crist also pays short shrift to his reversals, zigzags and rhetorical tacks through the years.
Omissions aside, The Party’s Over is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the man who was — and could again be — the governor of the nation’s most-important political swing state. Polls show he leads Republican successor and current opponent Gov. Rick Scott.