On August 26, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist wrote an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times in support of President Barack Obama's re-election bid. Even though the article was published today, conservatives have been quick to accuse the former governor of making a shrewd attempt to seem bi-partisan in preparation for a return to politics. In an e-mail to Florida republicans, Florida GOP Chairman Lenny Curry wrote, "Make no mistake about it: This is Charlie Crist trying to shed his skin for a political comeback."
Despite the swift GOP criticism, Gov. Crist's editorial does not celebrate the policies of this President, nor does it seem to indicate that his ideology has shifted. It mostly seems to point to a growing fear that the GOP has been hijacked by elements of the far right on social and fiscal policy. Many critics of the GOP have levied similar accusations against the party, but given the very anemic recovery and the bad job market, it seems as though some voters must share Crist's concerns, because President Obama is leading many polls.
In his article, he states, "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 Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion, even for rape victims."
While pessimists and critics can say he's just being shrewd and opportunistic, it should be noted that during a contentious re-election with a somewhat unpopular president, it is common for politicians to separate themselves from the president, but less common for the president to gain new allies. The president is not King Midas, in fact a handful of democrats have already announced they won't attend the convention because he is highly unpopular with those even slightly to the right of centrists.
If Charlie Crist is an opportunistic manipulator, he's not very good at it. If Charlie Crist is a conservative who recognizes the exponential influence the far-right has gained over the republican party, then maybe the American people would be smart to heed his advice and encourage him to re-enter politics.