Florida's Charlie Crist as new Obama fan? GOP has an answer for that.

The GOP response to news that former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida backs President Obama is a time-tested one for such occasions: question the turncoat's motive. 

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor
Former Florida Governor, Charlie Crist, attends an economic round table at the University of South Florida in 2010. Crist made the switch from Republican to Independent when he ran for the US Senate, and is now endorsing President Obama's bid for reelection.

Switching sides is always awkward in politics. But Charlie Crist’s endorsement of President Obama Sunday puts Florida’s former Republican governor in opposition to his party on the eve of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

That’s a whole different level of cold.

And Republicans are dropping bombs on the man many thought had a future on the national GOP stage in the same manner that Democrats recently blasted one of their own.

“Make no mistake about it: This is Charlie Crist trying to shed his skin for a political comeback,” wrote Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry in an e-mail to Florida Republicans.

How do political parties excoriate their Judas-es? In short, by questioning the heretic’s sincerity by citing the individual’s past statements whacking the newly favored political team. 

“Calling him a liberal will only play into his hand,” Mr. Curry wrote. “He hopes it will divert attention away from his record and his years of calling himself a Conservative. You should take every opportunity with the media to remind Floridians that Crist has made a career out of bashing the Democrat Party and everything President Obama stands for.”

In addition to several examples that Curry noted – Mr. Crist urging a Democratic congressman to vote against the health-care reform law and Crist signing a petition calling for a ban on gay marriage and civil unions – there are hits by Democrats themselves portraying Crist as a conservative. Consider an advertisement cut by his Democratic challenger in the 2010 Senate race, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) of Florida. 

Crist had been routed in the GOP primary by eventual winner Sen. Marco Rubio (R), but went forward in the Senate race by mounting a campaign as an independent. With Crist threatening to siphon moderate Democratic voters from Representative Meek, Meek cut an ad with quotes from Crist professing his stance as a “pro-life, pro-gun, anti-tax Republican” who was “impressed” by Sen. John McCain of Arizona’s selection of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on the GOP presidential ticket in 2008. 

“As the mainstream media rush to portray this as a victory for Democrats, please join me in reminding reporters and the people of Florida exactly what you and I already know; this is political opportunism, plain and simple,” Meeks said in the ad.

Democrats recently went down an almost identical path with former Alabama Congressman Davis. Davis, an African-American who had seconded Mr. Obama’s nomination for the presidency at the 2008 Democratic convention, had been scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention on Monday evening. (Monday’s events have been canceled due to the impending storm, Isaac, and it's not yet clear who all will get to speak later in the week.)

In response to that announcement last week, however, the Democratic National Committee released a web video of Davis’s remarks from the 2008 convention. Therein, he effusively praised Obama and the Democratic Party. 

Artur Davis’s speech at the GOP Convention isn’t about Barack Obama,” the ad reads at its conclusion. “It’s about Artur Davis.” 

Crist announced his support for Obama in an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, in which he heralds the virtues of Obama initiatives such as the economic stimulus of 2009 and the health-care reform law that Republicans abhor. Crist even goes to bat for the president’s treatment of Medicare within the health-reform law, which Republicans have attempted to define as a “raid” on Medicare funds.

That’s in contrast to how Crist portrayed Republicans. In his op-ed, he said that “an element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they've proven incapable of governing for the people. Look no further than the inclusion of the [Rep. Todd] Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion, even for rape victims.”

“The truth is,” Crist concluded, “that the [Republican] party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve.”

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