Charlie Crist on Meet the Press: Repeal Obama's health care plan, table offshore drilling
Gov. Charlie Crist refused to say whether he would caucus with Republicans or Democrats if elected to the U.S. Senate as an independent during an appearance today on NBC's politics show Meet the Press, saying "primary Republicans" rejected him in his bid to win the GOP nomination to Florida's seat.
Crist also said elected officials in both parties were unable to speak their minds in an increasingly partisan primary atmosphere. "They're shackled, if you will, by what primary voters might do. What we need is a true, honest discussion about what Democracy is all about."
The Meet the Press stop was his only Sunday TV appearance, speaking from Pensacola, where the governor declared a state of emergency following the massive oil spill resulting from an offshore drilling rig explosion near Louisiana's coast.
Originally scheduled to also appear on CNN's State of the Union Sunday, Crist canceled his interview, according to host Candy Crowley. Crowley instead talked to his Republican challenger Marco Rubio in an interview filmed in Clearwater.
Rubio also appeared on Fox News Sunday, answering similar questions about whether the spill changed his support for offshore drilling (he's questioning the technology), whether the IRS is investigating him in connection with the Florida GOP credit card scandal (he says no one from the IRS has contacted him) and whether the Florida Republican Party has grown too intolerant of moderate voices.
"Conservative thought is the mainstream of America," he told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. "What political pundits describe as conservatism, and what I embrace as conservatism, is mainstream thought in America."
Crist offered a different perspective, shrugging off his assertions made just a month ago on a Fox News Sunday debate with Rubio that he was running as a Republican, saying the response from people he met on the campaign trail prompted his decision to run as an independent.
"People were frustrated," he told Meet the Press host David Gregory. "They were tired of the gridlock, tired of the bickering in Washington and (felt) that we needed a new way."
Though he wouldn't say which party he would caucus with in Congress if elected or which party leader he might vote for, Crist did say he would support legislation repealing President Obama's health care reform bill, would support tabling new offshore drilling efforts and supported a limit on carbon dioxide emissions.
Gregory noted that, in contrast to Democrats' decision to keep working with Joe Lieberman when he ran as an independent to keep his seat in Congress, GOP leaders have denounced and distanced themselves from Crist. "When he changed his mind, I change my mind about him," said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. "I'm very disappointed in him."
The game, it appears, is very much afoot in Florida.