Will Charlie Crist be Florida's Arlen Specter?

Posted on June 22, 2010

Can Charlie Crist accomplish in Florida what Arlen Specter failed to do in Pennsylvania -- woo Democrats to his cause after bolting the GOP to avoid a tough primary?

In a way, comparing Crist to Specter is a little unfair ... to Arlen Specter. Just three months ago Crist declared himself a "common-sense conservative" who believed in the principles of Ronald Reagan. Specter never made any pretense of being a conservative. He voted with Senate Democrats when it suited his interests, and his transition to the Democratic Party did not require many uncomfortable conversions on hot-button issues like abortion.

Crist, by contrast, has shown an ideological flexibility that makes Specter look like a conviction politician. During the GOP primary, Crist campaigned as a pro-life Republican, and his campaign Web site declared "Governor Crist believes strongly in the sanctity of human life." After he left the GOP, the pro-life page on his Web site mysteriously disappeared -- and Crist vetoed a pro-life bill that would have required Florida abortion providers to allow women to see an ultrasound of their unborn child and would have had Florida opt out of taxpayer-funded abortions under Obamacare.

Crist reversed course on education reform. After declaring his support in March for a Republican bill to end teacher tenure and tie pay raises to student achievement, Crist turned around a few weeks later and vetoed the bill -- angering the GOP while ingratiating himself with the left-leaning Florida teachers union. (He has since hinted that he has an "open mind" when it comes to union "card-check" legislation).

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