Charlie Crist Courts Left, Could Win Democrats' Support

AP

Charlie Crist
AP

Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist continues to move leftward in his bid to represent Florida in the Senate, and it appears his campaign to win over Florida Democratic officials could work.

The Florida governor started his Senate campaign as a Republican but jumped ship in April after it became clear conservative Marco Rubio would defeat him in a primary.

Even with both Crist and Rubio now in the race, the Democrats' pick for the seat, Rep. Kendrick Meek, is faring poorly in polls, where he trails both men. There's even a chance Jeff Greene, a billionaire self-financing an out-of-nowhere run, could beat Meek in the Democratic primary.

Democrats in the state could be hesitant to support Greene if he wins, Politico reports. Greene is a telemarketing and real estate entrepreneur who profited from the housing market collapse; boxer Mike Tyson served as best man at his wedding, and he once hosted Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss in his guest house.

The Democratic Party in Florida is standing behind Meek for now, but Broward County Democratic Chairman and former state Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar told Politico that Democrats could turn to Crist to lead the "anybody but Marco campaign" if Greene wins the primary.

"If polls indicate that Greene is down by 20 points, then Crist becomes more attractive because then, at least, you stop Rubio and extremism," Ceasar said.

Crist has moved left on a number of issues since becoming an independent. Last week, for example, Crist vetoed an anti-abortion rights bill that would have forced women seeking abortions to obtain and pay for an ultrasound. He has also scrubbed anti-abortion rights language from his campaign website.

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In addition, Crist has reversed his position on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which he now wants repealed, and he now opposes offshore drilling even though he once supported it.

He also supports Solicitor General Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court despite opposing Justice Sonia Sotomayor's nomination. And he has left open the possibility of voting for a Democratic Senate Majority Leader if he were to make it to the Senate.

Crist is presently allying and fundraising with Floridians who support free travel to Cuba -- even though as a Republican he backed U.S. sanctions against Cuba and signed a law increasing costs on agencies that book trips there. He said Monday he supports the Obama administration's decision to allow Cuban-Americans to visit their relatives in Cuba and send them money, the Miami Herald reports.

The Herald called Crist's position on Cuba "the latest example of his that-was-then, this-is-now political strategy."

It's an open question how voters may respond to Crist's shifting positions. Polls suggest his movement has done little to hurt him, but some may find his tactics off-putting. Mike Riggs at the conservative-leaning Daily Caller called the governor out for his changing ideas.

"In America, we call such fingering of the political winds 'flip-flopping,'" he wrote. "But should we now call it 'Cristing,' in honor of the second most confused man -- after Alvin Greene, natch -- running for U.S. Senate?"

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