Commentary: Why Charlie Crist's Endorsement Matters

Barack Obama and Charlie Crist

Commentary: Why Charlie Crist's Endorsement Matters

Former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis endorses Romney while former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, supports Obama to the president's advantage.

Published August 27, 2012

For the Obama campaign, it was something of a cutting embarrassment to learn that Artur Davis, a onetime rising star in the Democratic Party and champion of the president’s 2008 election, would be a featured speaker at the Republican National Convention this week in Tampa. Florida.

Davis, who spoke on behalf of candidate Obama four years ago, served briefly in Congress, representing Alabama, and had been widely considered as a potential attorney general selection. He was thought to be a strong voice in the next generation of African-American political leadership.

The Republicans are eager to showcase a former Democrat who has come to their party to extol the virtues of presidential candidate Mitt Romney. They are particularly excited that their newfound acolyte, Davis, is Black, a demonstration that not all African-Americans are in lockstep in their support of the president.

Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has produced its own powerhouse defector. Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist created his own political hurricane by announcing that he was endorsing President Obama and the Obama campaign has announced that Crist will be one of the speakers at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

In this battle of dueling political converts, the advantage goes to the president and the Democrats.

To be sure, the endorsements by Davis and Crist are widely viewed with some degree of cynicism. Each of them is still reeling from a feeling of being abandoned by their party in scorching political contests. And there is a widespread belief that these endorsements are motivated more by sour grapes than by principle.

Davis' endorsement, as well as the former congressman’s conversion to the Republican Party, is not likely to produce any meaningful dividends. His home state of Alabama is so deeply red that Romney’s victory there is already a forgone conclusion. He has been in his new state of Virginia for too short a time to make a difference there. 

Moreover, Davis is not likely to make a dent in the president’s support among African-Americans, 94 percent of whom back Obama, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll (that compares with a stunning zero percent for Romney).

By comparison, Crist is a former governor of a state that is pivotal in this year’s presidential election. As a moderate Republican, Crist’s endorsement of the president signals to other moderate white voters that supporting Obama is a perfectly reasonable position. And if the Crist endorsement shifts the support of just a sliver of voters in Florida, it’s certainly a welcomed bonus for the Obama campaign.


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(Photos from left: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images, Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

Written by Jonathan P. Hicks


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