The only surprising part of this development is that it occurred in December. The former Florida Republican governor told reporters in Tampa a few weeks ago that he was going to lay low through the holidays and announce his future plans regarding politics in the New Year. But of course his announcement last night is only half of what he's expected to do, with the second phase being his announcement that he will enter the race to be the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014 against Rick Scott.
Crist told the Tampa Bay Times' Adam Smith Friday night what he has told campaign audiences in Florida over the past couple of months while stumping for President Obama: That he didn't leave the GOP, the GOP left him (a variation on Ronald Reagan's statement from 50 years ago on why he left the Democratic fold).
The Republican Party of Florida has been generating critical press releases against Crist for months now, obviously intimidated that his potential entrance into the governor's race could make things difficult in their quest to control Tallahassee until basically the end of time.
In a statement entitled "Charlie vs. Charlie," the RPOF said:
Charlie Crist's first official act as a Democrat was to tell a lie about why he is now pretending to be one. The truth is that this self-professed, Ronald-Reagan Republican only abandoned his pro-life, pro-gun, conservative principles in 2010 after he realized that Republicans didn't want to send him to Washington D.C. as a senator, especially after he proved he couldn't do the job as governor.
It's obvious that Florida Democrats are desperate when Charlie Crist is the one who gets invited to the White House just two years after he disowned Barack Obama in 2010, publicly ripped him at every turn, accusing President Obama of having 'the same tired answer for every problem, trashing ObamaCare and promising to repeal it, endorsing John McCain, and blasted President Obama for wasting money on the stimulus.
As far as the Democrats go, all I can tell you is that I've had the opportunity to speak before several Democratic and/or environmental groups over the past few months, and while the reaction toward a Crist candidacy can probably best be characterized as cautious interest, I've not found a whole lot of enthusiasm for a second Alex Sink run.
The 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee lost by just over one percentage point to Rick Scott two years, followed by criticism of how she ran that campaign. A Tampa Bay Times/ Miami Herald poll taken back in September showed that in a head-to-head matchup against Scott, Sink fares better. The survey showed Sink would beat Scott, 47 percent to 39 percent. A Scott-Crist matchup was much closer, with Crist winning 44-42 percent.
But we add the caveat that the poll was taken by Mason-Dixon, the same polling firm that published a survey for the Times/Herald four days before the presidential election showing that Mitt Romney would beat Barack Obama by six percentage points in Florida.
Crist will presumably be running against Sink, state Sen. Nan Rich, and perhaps a few other candidates, all of whom will be able to get their talking points prepared for them by the RPOF. They'll include such Crist nuggets as saying that Barack Obama "has the same tired answer for every problem — to spend more of your money."
"Sarah Palin is more ready to be president than Barack Obama."
"I'm about as conservative as you can get."
"I want you to know that Charlie Crist is pro-life."
Those were all from the RPOF's press release sent out on Saturday morning. There will be plenty more, though the true onslaught will come if and when Crist makes it official that he's running for governor.