To President Obama’s reelection team, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist’s high-profile speaking role at the Democratic National Convention is a coup.
But to many longtime Florida Democrats, it’s revolting.
"If he gets up to speak at the convention, it'll be a good time to go to the bathroom," said Palm Beach County’s tax collector, Anne Gannon, a Florida Democratic delegate.
“He’s a born-again Democrat,” Gannon said. “He’s a nice man, but he doesn’t have a clue about his value-system.’
Crist is widely expected to run for governor again in two years as a Democrat. He left the Republican Party in 2010, saying it became too “extreme.”
His conversion, to an independent, came only after he was all but assured a GOP-primary loss to fellow Republican Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate race. Crist went on to lose the general election to Rubio in a three-way Senate race involving former Miami Congressman Kendrick Meek, who wouldn't comment.
"I'm not in charge," he said when he ran into a reporter at the convention. "I'm going to go get my credentials (for the convention)."
Crist has slowly tilted toward the Democratic Party ever since, endorsing Sen. Bill Nelson and then Obama just before the Republican National Convention kicked off the Sunday before last. He was awarded a DNC speaking slot, perhaps on Thursday night when Obama is nominated.
The speaking role of a not-quite-Democrat at the Democrats’ convention speaks volumes about the state of the party.
Except for national party chairwoman and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, no other Florida official will play a high-profile convention role. Nelson isn’t scheduled to speak. Registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by 5 percentage points in Florida yet only hold one state-wide elected office, Nelson’s, and comprise less than a third of the Legislature.
As a must-win state for Republicans that Obama won in 2008, Florida is nonetheless playing a much-downsized role at the Democrats’ convention relative to its outsized importance.
Republicans have reveled in Crist’s flip-floppery, disseminating Tweets from the time Crist was still a Republican who bashed Obama’s healthcare plan.
Democrats aren’t so happy to point out the inconsistencies, but they’re noting them nonetheless in a bipartisan act of marveling at Crist’s appetite for political reinvention. They expect Crist, a trial lawyer at the Morgan & Morgan firm, to become a Democrat at an opportune moment and then run for governor.
“Less than two years ago, he was against the Affordable Care Act and he thought Sarah Palin was an excellent choice for vice-president. How does he explain that?” said state Sen. Nan Rich, a Weston Democrat who’s running for governor in 2014.