Reporting Tim Kephart
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CBSMiami) – After First Lady Michelle Obama gave what was widely received on both sides of the aisle as a great convention speech, the next big speaker will be former President Bill Clinton, and then before Obama speaks on Thursday a familiar face to Floridians will appear.
Former Governor Charlie Crist is set to be featured at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday before President Obama accepts the nomination. Crist became a political independent after it became clear he would lose the GOP Senate nomination to Marco Rubio in 2010.
Crist disappeared from politics for the most part until the Sunday before the Republican National Convention when the former Republican wrote an editorial in a Tampa newspaper endorsing President Obama for re-election.
Crist has been lambasted by Republicans over his party allegiance defections and have pushed out messages Crist sent out while in office critical of various parts of Obama’s national agenda. Democrats have been wary of Crist for fear he is using them to re-establish himself politically and run for governor again.
Florida Democrats have long been out of power in the state legislature, but President Obama carried the state in 2008 and the race with Mitt Romney in 2012 is said to be neck-and-neck.
Crist was the only Republican governor to support the stimulus plan, even though all GOP governors and Legislatures willing took all or most of the money involved in the stimulus and many even lobbied for more money, including Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan.
The value of Crist as a speaker for Obama and the Democratic Party nationally is to counter a recent defection by Alabama’s Artur Davis who spoke out against Obama. But, the real purpose is to portray the current Republican Party as having drifted too far to the right.
The argument Democrats will make is that Republicans have pushed so far to the right on nearly every issue that they have left behind moderates, like Crist, and the Democratic Party is more than willing to embrace those moderates who have been left behind.
Republicans will counter that Crist was never truly a conservative and that he is making current moves in hopes of catching the political wind in his sails to recapture the governor’s mansion in 2014.
If the governor’s race was held today and matched up Crist, a Democrat, and Rick Scott as the Republican, Crist leads by three points, according to Public Policy Polling. However, a generic Democrat also leads Scott by three points.
Crist will emerge from the convention with a decision to make about his political future. Does he complete the transformation and become a member of the Democratic Party or does he remain an independent for another year to see how the political situation breaks down.
Crist is set to speak to Democrats on Thursday.