Charlie Crist, a former Florida Republican governor, is switching to the Democratic party, reports The Tampa Bay Times. Crist has teased the move for years, and his official party change clears the way for a 2014 gubernatorial run as a Democrat.
Crist served as a state legislator, education commissioner, attorney general as a fairly conventional Republican. But he veered left after winning the Florida governorship in 2006, succeeding GOP icon Jeb Bush. Crist supported restoring voting rights for felons and backed President Obama's economic stimulus program.
Crist decided to forgo what would likely have been an easy reelection bid for governor in 2010 to run for U.S. Senate. But his ideological flexibility came back to haunt him in the Republican primary against rising star Marco Rubio. Crist bolted to run as an independent. He lost in a three-way race; Sen. Rubio's now a likely 2016 presidential candidate.
But Democrats are welcoming Crist. He signed papers changing his party from independent to Democrat at a White House Christmas party. "President Barack Obama greeted the news with a fist bump for the man who had a higher profile campaigning for Obama's re-election this year than any Florida Democrat," according to The Times.
"The widely expected move positions Crist, 56, for another highly anticipated 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."
Via The Tampa Bay Times and Politix analysis.