Timed, no doubt, to get a rise out of his former party as Republicans from across the U.S. arrive in Tampa for this week’s GOP convention, the Crist endorsement provoked a quick denunciation from Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry.
“Today we have seen a repugnant display from a self-centered, career politician. While the people of Florida, and thousands of visitors who’ve traveled here, are facing an emergency, Charlie Crist has demonstrated, yet again, that his political ambition will always come first,” Curry said.
Lifelong Republican Crist was elected governor in 2006 and got some consideration to be John McCain‘s running mate in 2008. He was a slam-dunk favorite to win the 2010 Republican Senate nomination, but Marco Rubio tapped into tea party dissatisfaction with Crist’s embrace of the $787 billion Democratic stimulus bill. Crist introduced Obama, and briefly hugged the recently inaugurated Democratic president, during a stimulus pep rally in Fort Myers in February 2009.
Rubio used a picture of “The Hug” to symbolize conservative dissatisfaction with the moderate Crist and overtook him in the polls. Crist dropped out of the Republican Party in 2010 and continued his Senate bid as a no-party candidate, abandoning his conservative GOP primary rhetoric to accuse his old party of being beholden to extremists on the right. Crist lost the general election to Rubio but outpolled Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek.