The speech from Charlie Crist on Thursday night was an impressive lead-in on the DNC's big night. Florida's ex-governor went on the offensive against a party as offended by his moderation as President Obama's left-of-centerness.
The full transcript is on the Tallahassee Democrat's site. My favorite line?
I look around Florida, and I see a state bursting with diversity and opportunity, a state that looks like America’s future. When I look at the Republican ticket today, I see two candidates who would break the fundamental promise of Medicare and Social Security, and cut investments in our middle class which are so important to our economic recovery.
Of course, Crist had many positive notes as well, and some nice inside jokes for those who watched a polite embrace of the president during a visit to Florida result in the end of his political career. But this message was more than just a thumbing of the nose at the extremists in his party who drove him from his seat of power. It was a careful, strategic speech set on making sure Obama wins Florida this Fall.
And a reminder to those especially naive people who see this race as leaning toward the GOP, Florida is enough to cinch this thing for Obama, and even in advance of the president's speech, Obama has been leading in Florida for most of 2012.
But this blog is focused on Florida politics, and there is a reason I am focusing on Crist tonight, not Obama. The real question of this speech for me is not whether it will help Obama win (it will, but Obama is winning anyway). It is whether Charlie Crist is positioning himself truly and honestly as a Democratic politician for the future.
On that lines, it seems to me Crist is still straining hard to appease a batch of Republicans who wouldn't give him the time of day. He cited the governing prowess of Reagan as if it existed, and he still made sure to leave ideological daylight between himself and the president he is endorsing.
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t agree with President Obama about everything. But I’ve gotten to know him, I’ve worked with him, and the choice is crystal clear.
Maybe I'm sensitive, but that felt a little back-handed. And it was less than I hoped for. Perhaps it should just be read as an appeal to those voters who dislike Obama's more liberal leanings whom Crist would like casting pragmatic votes for the president.
But this was less than I hoped for. I had hoped Crist would come out tonight and declare as a Democrat. If Crist is genuinely thinking of running for governor in 2014, and especially if he wants to run for Bill Young's House seat, we need to know Crist will be a reliable supporter of some progressive values. Specific progressive values. When will we get that speech? It wasn't here tonight.
Still, all things said, Democrats must stay optimistic about Crist's trajectory. They just can't let him start direct our political agenda, especially if he is intend and directing it in a rightward direction. Let's hope Crist's transformation continues, and that his evolution can be shown as more than political opportunism. The great fear in embracing Crist fully is that he could always bolt the Democratic Party as easily as he did the GOP.
Let's cross our fingers on this one.