Former Florida GOP Governor Charlie Crist Officially Becomes a Democrat

Daniel Doherty

12/8/2012 9:18:00 AM - Daniel Doherty

I’m shocked -- shocked, I tell you:

It was just a matter of time. Charlie Crist is becoming a Democrat.

Crist — Florida’s former Republican governor who relished the tough-on-crime nickname “Chain Gang Charlie” and used to describe himself variously as a “Ronald Reagan Republican” and a “Jeb Bush Republican” — on Friday evening signed papers changing his party from independent to Democrat.

He did so during a Christmas reception at the White House, where President Obama greeted the news with a fist bump for the man who had a higher profile campaigning for Obama’s reelection this year than any Florida Democrat.

The widely expected move positions Crist, 56, for another highly anticipated next 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.

“I’ve had friends for years tell me, ‘You know Charlie, you’re a Democrat and you don’t know it,’” Crist, a career-long populist, recounted Friday night from Washington, D.C.

Lest we forget, Governor Crist endorsed the president for re-election last summer (and, yes, spoke at the Democratic National Convention), even though in 2009 he viciously attacked him in public by comparing him to Jimmy Carter -- perhaps the worst Democratic president of the twentieth century. Three short years later, however, that’s water under the bridge. Crist played a crucial role in helping his bear hugging buddy win re-election, and now (of course) the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat stands to benefit politically from his shameless opportunism.

In any case, when it was first reported last August that Crist would indeed speak at the DNC as an “independent,” I think Senator Marco Rubio said it best when describing his former Republican rival:

“As any American does, he has his right to change parties and do anything he wants to do,” the Florida senator said on CNN. “He’s running out of parties to run under. But look, I think at the end of the day he has any choice that he wants to make, that’s fine.

Will Charlie Crist run for governor again -- this time as Democrat -- in 2014? Well, I suspect he didn’t sign those papers for nothing.