U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is backing former vice president Joe Biden in the Democratic primary for president.
The St. Petersburg Democrat said Biden is the best candidate to help the party recruit “independent and disaffected Republicans” needed to win Florida and deny President Donald Trump a second term in office.
“Joe Biden’s record of getting things done speaks for itself," Crist said in a statement Thursday. “He has always put the American people above party lines and will continue to as President.”
Two other Democratic members of Congress joined Crist is endorsing Biden: Reps. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina. Biden has won quite a bit of support from Florida’s Democratic establishment, including former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and former U.S. Senator and governor Bob Graham.
Among current members of Congress, Crist is the second to endorse Biden after U.S. Rep. Al Lawson. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy backed former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke while U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson have backed California Sen. Kamala Harris.
Biden continues to hold a lead in Florida, though the latest poll released this week shows Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is gaining on him. Florida holds its primary March 17. Depending on how the early nominating contests shake out, Florida and its 219 delegates could become a huge prize at that stage of the primary calendar.
There always seems to be a bit of intrigue around Crist’s endorsements. As Florida’s governor in 2008, he shocked the Republican field when he backed John McCain just day’s before the state’s primary. The announcement infuriated McCain’s rivals, especially Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, who thought Crist would remain neutral.
Then in 2012, Crist changed his party registration to Democrat and endorsed President Barack Obama’s reelection. Romney was spurned again.
This time, his decision to back Biden won’t deliver the same shock waves through the political class. After Crist endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket, Biden returned the favor by supporting Crist’s unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014.
Biden also aligns with Crist’s moderate record and desire to bring back an era of bipartisanship to Washington. Like Biden, Crist has called for strengthening the Affordable Care Act over overhauling healthcare in the United States through a Medicare for all plan.
“We need a president whose objective at the end of the day is to move the country forward for everyone through action," Crist said, "not empty promises.”