Florida’s Former Republican Gov. Charlie Christ Endorses Barack Obama
When he hugged President Barack Obama and said kind words about what Obama was trying to do to battle the recession, Florida Republican moderate and then Gov Charlie Crist’s career was was doomed and he became persona no grata to part of his own party — a poster boy for the kind of RINO many conservatives feel need to go elsewhere, or a least have no influence in their party’s course or or in determining its policies. So much for the former Florida Governor’s attempted run for Senate. And now Crist has endorsed Barack Obama for President in a newspaper op-ed.
Fasten your political seat belts. With lightning speed Crist will now come under attack in an attempt to discredit and dismiss him. But no matter how noisy it is on that front, what will linger from his newspaper op-ed are his words about his own political party — words that will likely resonate with a segment of independent voters and Republicans who feel their party has left them as turned a sharply rightward course after first stopping at the site of a big, noisy tea party.
Here’s how Crist begins his op ed in the Tampa Bay Times:
I’ve studied, admired and gotten to know a lot of leaders in my life. Across Florida, in Washington and around the country, I’ve watched the failure of those who favor extreme rhetoric over sensible compromise, and I’ve seen how those who never lose sight of solutions sow the greatest successes.
As America prepares to pick our president for the next four years — and as Florida prepares once again to play a decisive role — I’m confident that President Barack Obama is the right leader for our state and the nation. 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.
We often remind ourselves to learn the lessons of the past, lest we risk repeating its mistakes. Yet nearly as often, our short-term memory fails us. Many have already forgotten how deep and daunting our shared crisis was in the winter of 2009, as President Obama was inaugurated. It was no ordinary challenge, and the president served as the nation’s calm through a historically turbulent storm.
The president’s response was swift, smart and farsighted. He kept his compass pointed due north and relentlessly focused on saving jobs, creating more and helping the many who felt trapped beneath the house of cards that had collapsed upon them.
He knew we had to get people back to work as quickly as possible — but he also knew that the value of a recovery lies in its durability. Short-term healing had to be paired with an economy that would stay healthy over the long run. And he knew that happens best by investing in the right places.
He recounts some of what Obama did and then gets to the formal endorsement — and critique of the current incarnation of the GOP:
We have more work to do, more investments to make and more waste to cut. But only one candidate in this race has proven a willingness to navigate a realistic path to prosperity.
As Republicans gather in Tampa to nominate Mitt Romney, Americans can expect to hear tales of how President Obama has failed to work with their party or turn the economy around.
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. Look no further than the inclusion of the Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion, even for rape victims.
The truth is that the party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve.
Pundits looking to reduce something as big as a statewide election to a single photograph have blamed the result of my 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate on my greeting of President Obama. I didn’t stand with our president because of what it could mean politically; I did it because uniting to recover from the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes was more important than party affiliation. I stood with our nation’s leader because it was right for my state.
President Obama has a strong record of doing what is best for America and Florida, and he built it by spending more time worrying about what his decisions would mean for the people than for his political fortunes. That’s what makes him the right leader for our times, and that’s why I’m proud to stand with him today.
Expect Crist to come under attack very rapidly. The Politico puts this into the political context, noting that the piece ” further stokes the suspicion on both sides that he is setting himself up for a future run”:
What’s more interesting about this move, which is not quite a shock, is the frequent and ongoing rumors about Crist running for governor again, only as a Democrat. He doesn’t make any revelations about his own plans here, but if Obama wins Florida, this would be a handy thing for Crist, whose original consulting team is with Romney, to point to having done – and supporting the Democratic president is sort of a half-measure toward announcing as one himself.
The downside for Crist is, much like the start of the convention, this will not get the pop it might have without the storm heading toward Florida.
You almost don’t need to bother reading the response from Republican Party officials and ideological websites on this. I won’t even charge you my normal psychic reading fee for this one:
Responses will be attack Crist, rather than taking specific issue with the actual points he was trying to make and offering specific examples of why he is wrong (GO HERE to read responses as they come in). Some of his critics may address the points he raises, but expect the attack to focus on him. Discredit the messenger, deep-six the messenger’s message.
FOOTNOTE: The photo of Christ with Obama to most voters is not outrageous. But it has become a symbol of sorts, one used against Crist. In another era (not too long ago) a GOPer could embrace a Democrat on camera in a political hug and it would not be seized on to paint the politico as a traitor to the party.
The most notorious hug on camera that didn’t help someone’s career was when Sammy Davis, Jr. embraced Nixon in the 70s, but Nixon (before Watergate) had become symbolic of a host of policies being debated loudly in pre-cable, pre-talk radio days in newspapers, on college campuses and in the streets. Davis’ look of joy in that photo as he hugged Richard Nixon (who was pursuing the Southern strategy for his winning political coalition), and Nixon’s “aw shucks” embarrassed look, was a lingering image that damaged Davis’ image among a segment of Americans in the divisive 60s. And Davis lost a lot of friends.