Florida — Former GOP darling Gov. Charlie Crist defected from the Republican Party on Thursday to run as an independent for U.S. Senate after months of being ripped by conservatives as too supportive of President Barack Obama.
“I don’t have either party helping me. But I need you. I need you more than ever,” the governor said, surrounded by cheering supporters carrying signs that included “Democrats for Crist.”
Crist was the heavy favorite last year, and was even among the Republican names bandied about in the 2012 presidential race. But the primary campaign quickly became a lost cause as the tea party movement embraced another candidate, Marco Rubio, and held up the governor’s literal embrace of Obama last year as evidence that Crist was too liberal.
Crist was mobbed by supporters after the speech. One man shouted, “I love you!” and Crist replied, “I love you more, brother.”
He said he felt liberated. Asked why, he said, “Because I only belong to the people and that’s a wonderful place to be. That’s what it’s all about.”