BRADENTON -- Former Governor Charlie Crist made it official Monday, announcing his entrance into Florida's 2014 gubernatorial race. Crist, who served from 2007-11, before making a failed bid for the U.S. Senate, made the announcement at an event in downtown St. Pete.
After months of speculation, news broke that he had filed to run as a Democrat on Friday. Crist must get past former Florida Senator Nan Rich in the party's primary, before squaring off against incumbent governor Rick Scott in a general election.
Largely seen as the candidate with the best chance of unseating Scott, Crist was a Republican for his entire political career. He switched to independent in his run for Senate, as the party took a hard right turn in 2010, behind a Tea Party wave that carried both Scott and Senator Marco Rubio into office.
Following the election -- which proved disastrous for Crist, who was beaten soundly in a three-way race between himself, Rubio and Democratic Congressman Kendrick Meeks -- there was almost immediate speculation that he would join the Democratic Party and make one more run at a major political office.
Crist changed his registration in time to support President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, which was widely seen as an informal announcement that he intended to run.
Shortly after leaving office, Crist also began working for personal injury attorney John Morgan, one of the most powerful Democratic movers and shakers in the state, which was also viewed as a tipping his hand regarding his political ambitions.
Crist's political misfortunes have often been cited as an example of how far right the GOP has moved. In 2008, he was on the short list to be chosen by Senator John McCain as a running mate in his presidential campaign. Two years later, he was literally chased out of his own party's primary by Rubio, then a mere termed-out House Speaker in the state legislature.
A moderate, who maintained good relations with Florida teachers and was seen as a progressive on such issues as environmental protection, Crist is loathed by many hardcore Republicans who see him as an opportunist. However, he is viewed by political strategists as a candidate who will be attractive to moderates and independents.
Many analysts feel that Crist's success will largely hinge on how well he can invigorate the Democratic Party's base in non-presidential election year, something that was sorely missing in 2010 when former-CFO Alex Sink narrowly lost to Scott, and the RPOF swept the other statewide races in landslides.
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