Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist
PALM HARBOR, Florida -- It's been more than two years since Gov. Charlie Crist declared himself an independent and more than three days since he backed Democrat Barack Obama for a second term in the Oval Office. Yet Florida Republicans are still fired up with the way they were spurned.
This week, as the state's GOP leaders gathered for daily "pep" speeches at Innisbrook Resort, former Republican Governor Crist has been a familiar punching bag. And the punches thrown are filled with emotion.
"This is a group of people who spent a lot of time and blood, sweat, and tears to get him elected as a Republican," said Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam.
Delegates said the timing of Crist's Obama endorsement, the first day of RNC week in the Tampa Bay Times, made his "flip" even more insulting.
"Then to have him do that," said Jefferson Co. GOP Chair Clyde Simpson, "is a slap in the face."
"Told you so," Senator Marco Rubio joked to the crowded room of party leaders Tuesday. The same day, Crist appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball" live from Channelside, with crowds cheering him to challenge his successor, Republican Governor Rick Scott.
"To (Republican delegates), it was a personal betrayal," said Times staff writer Michael van Sickler. "This was much more than just a politician endorsing a candidate of the other party."
The op-ed is still the most shared story on the Times' website, which van Sickler said was "amazing," considering it was a political story published three days ago.
GOP leaders tell 10 News that they were stunned by Crist's op-ed, but not shocked. In fact, they said they were looking forward to a possible Democratic challenge from him in 2014 so they can throw his two decades of conservative record "back in his face."
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