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Why Charlie Crist Became a Democrat

Associated Press photo

It all started with a hug.

It was 2009. Charlie Crist was governor of Florida. The recession was starting to hit hard. And President Obama had just won election in a landslide.

Obama came to Ft. Myers to talk up his stimulus plan. Crist was grateful for the money.

And then, they hugged.

What changed is the leadership of the Republican Party. As I said at the convention I didn't leave the Republican Party, it left me.

Crist Democrat_1.jpg

The Club for Growth and Marco Rubio campaigns used the photo to tar Crist as an insincere conservative. It helped Rubio beat Crist in the primary for U.S. Senate.

But Crist is not so easily defeated. He became an independent and kept running for Senate.

In Florida, that's a hard road to travel. Most Republicans voted for Rubio, most Democrats voted for their guy, and there just weren't enough independent voters for Crist to win.

In his last year as governor, Crist made overtures to Democrats. Most significantly, he vetoed a education bill that teacher's unions despised.

The rest is history. Crist actively campaigned for Obama this year and even spoke at the Democratic National Convention.

And now, he's tweeted a photo of he and his wife at an White House holiday celebration -- holding his new party registration paperwork.

Crist told the Tampa Bay Times: 

What changed is the leadership of the Republican Party. As I said at the convention, I didn't leave the Republican Party, it left me. Whether the issue was immigration, or education, or you name it — the environment. I feel at home now.

The question now is, what does Crist want? A post in the Obama Administration? Another run for governor? (And there's no guarantee Democrats would embrace him as their candidate.)

Only one thing is clear - Crist is a political survivor.

Scott Finn is a former news director at WUSF Public Media, which provides in-depth reporting for Tampa Bay and all of Florida.
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