When Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced that he was formally leaving the Republican Party, it was seemingly in label only. An impossible primary path to a Senate nomination compelled him to launch an Independent bid. On philosophical terms, he remained a fairly basic-conservative, albeit one who backed the president's stimulus package.
Months later, it's becoming more and more difficult to label Crist's departure from the GOP as simply a superficial endeavor. Either out of electoral expedience or ideological disenchantment, the governor has spent the past few days either purging himself of his Republican roots or actively courting Democratic audiences.
Crist recently refunded the $9,600 contribution he had received from Jim Greer, the indicted former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. On Wednesday morning, he campaigned in the Democratic-stronghold Broward County, to solid reviews. The day before, he was caught on camera mocking the GOP colleagues he left behind: "I used to be a Republican... Thank God."
Now for the latest gambit: on Thursday morning, Crist is scheduled to do a sit down interview with the reliably progressive, national radio program: "The Bill Press Show." It will be, a producer tells the Huffington Post, the first progressive radio show to have Crist as a guest.
As Crist would explain it, the phenomenon here is not him leaving the Republican Party but, rather, the Republican Party leaving him. On everything from immigration reform to the so-called Ground-Zero mosque, his positions are those once held by either mainstream republicans or self-professed constitutional conservatives. They just so happen to be uncouth in the modern GOP.
Of course, there are more cynical explanations. The most commonly offered one being that the Florida Governor knows how to count votes, and when the general election contest finally starts, he will be hard pressed to maintain his level of Democratic support. This past week, however, the conservative American Spectator offered an alternative theory: Crist has given up on the Senate, it speculated, and has his eyes, instead, on an administration post.
Look at what he's doing. Crist echoes Obama's vigorous support for building of a mega-mosque and Muslim community center near Ground Zero, using the same tone-deaf and beside-the-point freedom of religion arguments. No vote getter in Florida. He's bad-mouthed the Arizona immigration law, which is very popular in Florida. He praises Obama for spending a weekend on Florida's Gulf beaches, thereby, Crist says, helping save jobs in the Florida tourism industry. He says nothing of the many more jobs lost by Obama's oil-drilling moratorium.
Crist is being absolutely sycophantic toward Obama and Company. But this is nothing new for Crist. When he wanted to be on the Republican ticket with John McCain in '08, he did everything but roll over and put his tummy up for scratching. In the spirit of bipartisan self-love, why should he act differently toward a Democrat who can save him from being thrown into the private sector, for which Crist has neither the taste nor the skills.
Crist's current behavior makes more sense if his new goal is to be one of Obama's spear-carriers in Washington. He's taking too many Obamaesque positions that a majority of Floridians don't fancy for someone who really thinks he can win the Senate race. This is just a theory rather than a complaint.