LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (Reuters) - Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat, launched a campaign-style video and website on Friday that appeared to throw open the door to a run for his old job in 2014.
In the video posted on YouTube and new website (www.charliecrist.com), highlights his past as governor, calling the period from 2007-2011 a time when “the people were in charge.”
Criticizing the current powers that be, he asks Floridians to tell him how he can get their state heading back in the direction of “common sense.”
“The past few years have been tough: Government on the fringes, donors and politics above the people,” the perma-tanned Crist, speaking against the backdrop of a palm-fringed beach, says in the video.
With Republicans now controlling every state house across the southeast a Democratic gubernatorial win in Florida - the first in two decades - would significantly alter the political landscape in 2014.
Crist’s video does not mention Republican Governor Rick Scott, a divisive figure who Democratic Party officials have frequently criticized for his hardline stance on issues including healthcare reform, education and voting rights. But Crist, who abandoned the Republican Party after losing a primary to Florida Senator Marco Rubio in 2010, mocks Scott’s often repeated slogan “It’s Working.”
“You’ve seen the attacks against full-time working people and their healthcare, against women and their doctors, against teachers, public schools and college affordability, and even against the simple act of casting your vote,” Crist says. “It’s not working.”
Crist stops short, in the brief video, of calling it a campaign ad or openly announcing that he will run for election against the incumbent Scott next year.
But he told Reuters in an interview on Thursday, on the eve of a Democratic Party conference at a Walt Disney World resort in this Orlando suburb, that he was considering a formal announcement soon.
“I think it’s getting more and more likely,” he said.
“I’ve received some very kind encouragement from some very good people around the state. I‘m starting to get the impression that we might be able to do this.”
In June, a Quinnipiac poll measuring a potential Scott-Crist match-up gave the newly minted Democrat a commanding lead over Scott, a wealthy former healthcare executive.
The Republican Party of Florida has kept up a daily drumbeat of Internet and media attacks on Crist, calling him untrustworthy and citing his change from conservative Republican to moderate Democrat.
In a video response to Crist on Friday, the Republican Party played Crist’s “it’s not working” statement alongside a clip of him in an interview last week, when he suggested the Florida economy was improving lately under its Republic leadership.
The GOP called the video evidence of “double talk” by Crist, who was governor when the state was hit by the nationwide recession.
Scott himself has made the point repeatedly that Florida lost about 800,000 jobs during Crist’s time in the governor’s mansion but has gained more than 365,000 since he succeeded him.
Editing by Tom Brown and Bob Burgdorfer