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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The Charlie Crist ideology



Every day the Florida Republican Party blasts out "This Day in CRISTory" emails, reminding people how its former standard-bearer, who is expected to run for governor as a Democrat, used to hail Jeb Bush's expansion of vouchers, once supported offshore drilling, bashed former Sen. Bob Graham as a tax-raiser, campaigned as a prolifer, and so forth.

It's an easy target, questioning the Democratic credentials of a fellow who used to call himself a prolife, progun, antitax Ronald Reagan Republican. But trying to convince Democratic primary voters, let alone general election voters, that Charlie Crist was a right-wing Republican before he became a Democrat won't work.

Crist has tried to do that himself with little success in at least a couple of Republican primaries. If Florida's most conservative activists believed Crist's claims that he was one of them in 2010, the former governor would be living in Washington as Florida's Republican junior senator.

The man is a remarkable politician who can draw a mob of gushing fans walking into any convenience store in Florida. He also is a cipher, difficult or impossible to understand and predict.

But after watching Crist's rise and fall and rise in Florida politics over two decades, I don't buy that Crist lacks core values.

For all his waffling, flip-flopping and evasiveness on major issues over the years, one can see a common thread: a (mostly) small-government populist, who pretty consistently keeps his eyes on the desires of everyday Floridians. That was the case whether he was calling for tax cuts, fighting ­— and grandstanding — against utility rate increases, expanding early voting hours when lines swelled, demanding stiffer prison sentences as Chain Gang Charlie, or embracing the federal stimulus package that saved the jobs of hundreds of Florida teachers and cops and doomed his future in the GOP.

As banal as "The people's governor" slogan is, it summarizes Crist's nebulous ideology.

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[Last modified: Saturday, June 22, 2013 11:34am]


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