Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida, told Hardball on Monday night that he was no longer “comfortable” being a member of the GOP.
The current GOP leadership, he argued, doesn’t seem to care about less advantaged Americans. “As a live and let live kind of guy, as someone who wants to be tolerant, who wants to be kind, who wants to be compassionate–the leadership of the Republican party today doesn’t seem to embrace that kind of view,” he said.
He pointed to the right’s tough stance on immigration, cuts in education, and voter suppression efforts.
Crist, of course, is no stranger to switching parties. The lifelong GOPer first left his party in 2010 to run against Marco Rubio as an independent during his failed Senate bid. So his latest switch wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise, particularly since Crist campaigned for Obama’s re-election and spoke at the Democratic National convention.
msnbc host Chris Matthews warned Crist that there was a “blue plate special aspect” now that he’s changed parties, and that he’d have to buy into Democratic mainstream arguments: opposing vouchers, supporting the public school teachers union.
“I’m fine with that,” Crist insisted, to which Matthews replied that it’s “quite a switch.”
Matthews also brought up the recent remarks of Peter Feaman, the GOP state national committeeman, who said Crist not too long ago “sat at my house, in my kitchen, at my breakfast table and told me he was a Ronald Reagan Republican.”
Crist argued, “I think the party has changed, is what really happened. I think Reagan is a great example. My friend Jeb Bush not long ago, in fact, said that Ronald Reagan would not be successful in today’s Republican party. That tells you everything you need to know.”
There’s speculation that Crist’s switch could be a step toward running for governor in 2014.
The Sunshine state has been divided by Dems and Republicans for years. President Obama won Florida by a thin margin in November. Sen.Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott are both strict conservatives, while Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won re-election with just over half– 55%– of the vote.