Tags: 2014 Midterm Elections | Chris Cillizza | Charlie Crist | Florida

WashPo's Cillizza: Losing Campaign, Not Racism, Made Crist Quit GOP

Image: WashPo's Cillizza: Losing Campaign, Not Racism, Made Crist Quit GOP

By Melissa Clyne   |   Thursday, 08 May 2014 10:27 AM

An "epic collapse in poll numbers," not race, was the real reason former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist left the Republican party, according to Washington Post political writer Chris Cillizza.

"I couldn’t be consistent with myself and my core beliefs and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I’ll just go there," Crist has said. "I was a Republican, and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me."

Not true, according to Cillizza, who quotes Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith, who said that Crist "was happy as a Republican when the polls showed him leading Marco Rubio by 20 points. Apparently he discovered racism in the party after the polls showed him trailing [now Sen. Marco] Rubio by 20 points."

In a March 2010 debate between Crist and Rubio – both men were vying for the job following the resignation of Sen. Mel Martinez – Rubio took a shot at Crist’s conservative credentials.

"I voted for you because I trusted you when you said you would be a Jeb Bush Republican," jabbed Rubio. "Your record was something very different. You signed a budget that raised taxes. You tried to oppose the cap-and-trade system in Florida. You appointed liberal Supreme Court justices to our Supreme Court."

Crist countered: "I think we’re both good conservatives."

Cillizza notes that Crist also vetoed an education bill supported by conservatives that would have linked teachers’ pay to test scores.

"The impetus for him leaving the Republican Party seemed to be his precipitous decline in his primary fight against Rubio — nothing more, nothing less," writes Cillizza, adding that Crist made no mention of race during his defection — first to an independent and then in December 2012 to a Democrat. Instead, he blamed it on polarization and "games and name-calling" between Democrats and Republicans "making absolutely no mention of race (or any other factor) in explaining his choice."

Cillizza also references a polling chart published by Real Clear Politics showing polling data throughout the Crist-Rubio race that illustrates Crist’s collapsing numbers.

Florida-based Republican consultant Rick Wilson said the former Republican governor turned independent turned Democrat has "long enjoyed a magical ability to pretend that his words, his history, and his record are infinitely flexible and subject to redefinition at any moment."

"It's a strategy that could work," Cillizza says, "but that doesn't change history."

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