Anyone who thought Charlie Crist would be satisfied being a member of a mega-law firm is naive.
We expect that Crist, Florida’s former Republican governor and independent candidate for the U.S. Senate, will soon announce his candidacy for the governor’s chair as a Democrat. That decision should surprise few, but it will set in motion the positioning for the 2014 race among other Democrats who may be sitting on the sidelines waiting for Crist to make a move.
Crist served one term as governor before changing course and pursuing the Senate position. He entered that fray as a leading candidate but, with the help of a photo of him embracing President Obama at a rally, he ended up losing to Marco Rubio and spent the next few months out of the spotlight before resurfacing as a member of the Morgan and Morgan law firm.
Crist, however, is a career politician. It is what he knows and what he loves.
He was often criticized as governor for being a centrist — some even accused him of being downright liberal. Rubio got a ton of traction by using Crist’s hug with President Obama against him in the race for the U.S. Senate.
Nine months ago, Crist embraced the Democrat Party and gave more than a hint or two that he would be proud to represent the Democrats in an effort to oust Gov. Rick Scott in 2014.
Beating Scott will be a challenge even though the governor’s appeal has lost some of its luster — especially with his Tea Party supporters. When Scott swerved on his stand against accepting Medicaid funds from the federal government — part of the Affordable Care Act — it may have cost him some loyalty. Even that perceived misstep, however, would not be enough to push conservative voters to Crist or any other Democrat. Plus, Scott has deep pockets to battle all comers.
Still, Crist has that familiar air of confidence that he could do it.
So far, only former Sen. Nan Rich has announced intentions to seek the governor’s chair as a Democrat. The 2010 candidate, Alex Sink, who came within a whisker of beating Scott, has been quiet. If Crist does announce his candidacy, Sink might be the one opponent who could mount a serious challenge and force a free-spending primary.
In the meantime, Crist is the 600-pound gorilla in the 2014 race for governor.
At a recent Democrat fundraiser, Crist commented that the hug with Obama cost him dearly as a Republican. But, as a Democrat, he said that hug “has a whole different feel to it.”
He went on to say he is proud to be a Democrat — soliciting applause from those in attendance, some of them shouting “Run, Charlie!” If Crist can persuade doubters that he has indeed morphed into a Democrat — and is not merely seeking another political office — he will be a force. The man who compared himself to Jeb Bush and Ronald Reagan may, however, have a tough time becoming the face of the Democratic Party in Florida.
But, don’t count him out.
Crist is an astute politician and he is legitimately charming and warm — qualities that resonate with voters.
If, or when, Crist announces his intentions, Florida’s political wheels will begin to churn.