This isn't the Charlie Crist I knew.
In recent days, the former Florida governor has publicly lambasted the Republican Party, his former party of more than 30 years, and given his support to one of the worst presidential administrations in recent history. He has characterized the Republican agenda as extreme and a failure in leadership. What's extreme is not the Republican Party, but Crist's attempt to transform himself from Reagan Republican into an Obama liberal.
The Charlie Crist I knew and worked closely with for five years was Florida's attorney general and a tough, no-nonsense, crime fighter who earned the moniker "Chain Gang Charlie" for his support of prison chain gangs as a state senator. He never met a tax increase he liked. While not an ideologue on issues such as the environment, renewable energy and immigration, Crist's particular brand of Republicanism was conservative enough to convincingly win Republican primaries in his statewide races for attorney general and governor.
Attending hundreds of Lincoln Day dinners, party meetings and candidate rallies from the early 1990s through his successful campaign for governor in 2006, Crist earned the support of grass-roots Republicans and party leaders statewide based on a conservative philosophy of less taxing, less spending, less government and more freedom.
The Charlie Crist I knew idolized Ronald Reagan and embraced Reagan's view of limited government. He was prolife, progun and vehemently antitax. He believed big government was the enemy of success, and that when government taxed it took "your money."
The Charlie Crist I knew eagerly endorsed and campaigned for Sen. John McCain against Barack Obama. He put himself forward as a potential vice presidential running mate for McCain. When he was not successful, Crist applauded the pick of Sarah Palin and said she would do "a great job."
That was the Charlie Crist I knew. But now Crist has done the unthinkable by endorsing Obama, the candidate of more taxing, more spending, more government and less freedom.
This shift is more than an "evolution." It is a metamorphosis. To my knowledge, no prominent politician in modern American history has changed his or her core principles this drastically, this quickly.
This endorsement stands in sharp contrast to what most Floridians have experienced over the past three-and-a-half years under this administration. For nearly 1 million Floridians out of work and the nearly 100,000 Florida families whose homes have been foreclosed on just in the last year, Obama's failure to get our economy moving again is devastating. For more than 3 million Florida seniors, Obamacare's cut of $700 billion in future funding of Medicare is distressing. For our historic allies around the world, this administration's tendency to treat our friends as enemies and our enemies as friends is alarming. And for young Americans, the $5 trillion added to the national debt by Obama and Congress is demoralizing.
During my service in the U.S. Senate, I became more and more astonished at the rate of federal spending and the massive debt our government is accumulating. The rate of spending under Obama is unsustainable, and for Crist to call this responsible and "investment" spending is shortsighted and, frankly, just plain wrong.
Mitt Romney is well qualified, bright, tested and uniquely prepared to put our country back on the path to prosperity. With the addition of Paul Ryan to the ticket, I have never been more excited about our prospects of overcoming politics as usual in Washington and undertaking long-term solutions to ensure our children enjoy the same opportunities to succeed as we enjoyed. Floridians have seen what the current officeholder cannot achieve; our country cannot afford to waste another four years on false hope and illusory change.
Endorsing the worst president since Jimmy Carter, abandoning the principles of Ronald Reagan and speaking at the Democratic National Convention next week in support of a failed agenda is not the Charlie Crist I knew.
George LeMieux is a former Republican U.S. senator who served as former Gov. Charlie Crist's top campaign strategist and chief of staff. Crist appointed LeMieux to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat in 2009, and LeMieux served 16 months.