Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has had quite the political history: He served the state as a Republican and made a failed 2010 Senate bid as an independent, after his Tea-Party-backed rival for the GOP nomination took the lead. Now he has officially joined the Democratic Party. Crist posted a photo on Twitter showing himself holding voter registration papers, and wrote, "Proud and honored to join the Democratic Party in the home of President @BarackObama!" He said on Monday that he didn't feel "comfortable" in the GOP any more, saying party leaders had driven him and other "middle of the road" Republicans away with far-right policies on "immigration, education, voter suppression," and other issues. "I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me," he said, echoing Ronald Reagan's explanation for his decision to leave the Democrats. In the wake of a rough election, will Crist's departure further dampen the GOP's appeal to moderates, or is the party better off without him?
Crist could help Democrats win back the Florida governorship: "The news hardly comes as a surprise," says Steve Benen at MSNBC. Crist has been a politician in search of a party ever since "the Republicans' purge of moderates" in 2010, and he endorsed President Obama this summer. It's not hard to figure out where he's headed. With Crist on their side, Democrats finally have a "high-profile candidate" who'll be up to the task, in 2014, of beating Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who "has struggled badly."
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The GOP is better off without RINOs like Crist: "Self-proclaimed moderates" like Crist don't care about defending conservative values, says blogger Streiff at RedState. They're out to puff themselves up, which is why as soon as they lose a primary "they quit because 'the Republican party left me.'" The more of these "Quislings" who leave the better, because without them maybe true conservatives won't get "crapped upon by having our beliefs denigrated in the name of electability."
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Crist is an easy target for Republicans, but he's still a problem: "To be sure, Crist, who served as an Obama surrogate and spoke at the Democratic National Convention, has set himself up as an ideal foil for Republicans both in Florida and nationally," says Patrik Jonsson at The Christian Science Monitor. Still, he's generating headlines that won't do his former team any good. His loud departure "still highlights a central GOP post-election conundrum: How to become more, not less, appealing to middle America."
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