March 9th, 2014
11:30 AM ET
5 months ago

Crist: Democrats ‘ought to strengthen up’ and support Obamacare

(CNN) – Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who’s looking to get his old job back - this time as a Democrat - argued Sunday that Democrats need to “strengthen up” and own Obamacare in this year’s midterms.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Crist panned his former party, the GOP, but admitted that the Sunshine State’s economy has improved under Republican Gov. Rick Scott—though he argued it could be “a lot better.”

The Republican-turned-Democrat gave a full-throated defense of the Affordable Care Act, a law Democrats are largely keeping quiet about after the federal website’s rollout turned into a fiasco last fall.

But Crist said those Democrats “ought to strengthen up.”

“This is going to be a very popular program,” he told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley.

Crist argued Democrats are “overthinking,” and they should simply support President Obama, despite his recent spate of low approval numbers.

“He deserves (their support), and that will bring them home and unify them and that will make November very good for Democrats,” Crist said.

The former governor also weighed in on his former political party. He said the results of the closely watched presidential straw poll from this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference indicate a “fractured” and “split up” GOP.

“I don't think they know exactly what they want to do,” he said.

The conference, better known as CPAC, highlighted an array of ideologies that fall along the right side of the political spectrum, from libertarianism to more moderate approaches on issues such as immigration and foreign policy.

Crist argued that rhetoric from some within the party is hurting the GOP at large.

“This is a party now that is perceived as being anti-women, anti-minority, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-education, anti-environment,” he said. “I mean pretty soon, there’s nobody left.”

Crist was famously criticized by Republicans when, as Florida’s governor at the time, he hugged Obama in 2009. The Republican governor later accepted the President’s stimulus package, unlike some conservative state leaders.

The embrace was a moment that put Crist on a trajectory that ultimately sent him into the Democratic Party. In 2010, he ran as an independent for the Senate after failing to mount a serious challenge against Marco Rubio in the Republican primary.

Crist lost in the general election and largely stayed off the political grid until he announced in 2012 he was switching to the other side completely, becoming a registered Democratic voter. He’s in Washington now promoting his book, “The Party’s Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became a Democrat.”

“The leadership of the party has really gone astray. It really is the reason that I became a Democrat,” he said Sunday. “I feel much more comfortable. I feel at home.”

Crist also spoke about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie - a Republican who’s also been scrutinized by his own party for embracing the President after Superstorm Sandy and just days before the 2012 presidential election. Asked if Christie will eventually become the GOP nominee, Crist said, “I don’t think it’s that likely.”

The former governor is challenging his successor, Scott, in what’s expected to be a contested governor’s race in Florida this year. The unemployment rate has dropped significantly under Scott’s tenure, and Republicans are eager to boast of the state’s improved economy.

Crist admitted Sunday the economy has indeed gotten better, but argued “that turnaround started at the end of my term” and pointed to his acceptance of the stimulus package from Washington.

But he argued the economy “could be doing a lot better,” saying Scott should have taken Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which would have increased the number of people eligible for the health care program for low-income individuals. He added that a high-speed rail system and a minimum wage increase also would have boosted the economy.

Critics and opponents frequently point to Crist’s changed positions on a number of issues, now that he’s on the other side. And the former governor is keenly aware of his unusual history.

Speaking at a dinner Saturday night known as the Gridiron, a lighthearted event held each year by journalists and politicos, Crist quipped about his transition.

“The Gridiron always pokes fun at candidates from both parties. You could have saved time and just invited me,” he said, according to his prepared remarks that were published by the Tampa Bay Times.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.


Filed under: 2014 • Charlie Crist • Florida • Obamacare • Rick Scott • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. bruce barrett

    i voted for crist back when he was sane. then he went insane and gave up the governorship, then gave up the republican party, then gave up being the independent , then became a democrat. he doesnt know what he is any more. an opportunist comes to mind. obamacare is too expensive and none of us will sign up as we can get blue cross thru the florida program already in place, a lot lot cheaper. obamacare sucks big time and we dont need all the bells and whistles. no one asked us what we wanted. and now obama lied from the get go. period. i can keep my doctor. not. you can keep your policy. period. NOT true. he lied and that is unforgivable. if crist supports a giant lie, then he is dog meat when it comes to being governor again. try dog catcher

    March 9, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  2. Tampa Tim

    Crist is correct. The GOP has run against Social Security, Medicare and now ACA, but they have no plans to make anything better. To the simple minded, I guess no plans gives you the right to be critical of those who do. Crist is an example of Florida changing for the better.

    March 9, 2014 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  3. Pete

    If Mr Crist gets back his governorship in Florida maybe he can turn around this state and its ailing health care system..Too much corruption from Scott and his croonies and he's not bashful about publizing it either or just plain stupid..Remember Scott you'll have to answer to authoritues when your terms over dude,maybe jail time is in your future,deal with it...

    March 9, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. Gunderson

    But Charlie,
    What are you saying? Obama Care isn't what it was cracked up to be? Say it ain't so !!

    March 9, 2014 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  5. Tommy G

    Absolutely Christ!! Every Democrat running for office should have I VOTED FOR OBAMACARE tattooed right across there forehead to remind every American who is responsible for their healthcare insurance being cancelled, their premiums going up, their taxes going up, their deductibles going up, losing their doctor and losing their hospital even after the Liar of the Year Obama and his Democrat lackeys said none of this would happen. Yes, as Nancy Pelosi famously said "Embrace the Suck."

    March 9, 2014 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  6. i'malib

    I agree! Healthcare is free AND you get a $2500 bonus just for signing up! If I was a democrat, I would be telling everyone I voted for it!

    March 9, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. just saying

    Tampa Tim
    Crist is correct. The GOP has run against Social Security, Medicare and now ACA,
    -–

    obama and the democrats took over $700 billion from medicare to fund obamacare. seniors will be losing their advantage plans as well as a result of obamacare. obama and the democrats know these programs are financially unsound and yet refuse to do anything about it, except make them weaker by forcing more and more people into them with a bad economy.

    March 9, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. Harold Read

    Democrats definitely need to sign their own political death warrants and support Obamacare. The sooner they are voted our the better.
    Q: How many times did the enrollment deadline get illegally pushed back?
    Q: How many people lost their policies even though Obama proudly and repeatedly said, "You can keep your policy. Period."
    Q: How many millions were wasted in the website that still doesn't work?
    Q; How many millions were wasted on the "outreach campaigns"?

    However supporting Obamacare is perfect for Florida as Obama stated that illegal immigration information is withheld from law enforcement agencies and anchor babies can be covered and paid for by US Tax dollars.

    March 9, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. Chris

    Obama said if you Like your Plan You Get To Keep Your Plan in is Campaign trips in 2012. People are getting letters saying their current plan has been cancel and have sign up for ACA. This lady was only paying a 25 dollar co pay 200 something for herher plan and think 1,500 premium now Under the ACA bronze plan she checked and said her co pays will be 45 dollars, premiums will cost 3,000 and the plan will be 225 more which will be 425 for her plan under obamacare. So Yes people should be against it.

    March 9, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  10. Obamacare & Democrats - Doubling Down on the Lies

    It is just mind boggling that the Democrats think that after lying to the American people about several Obamacare aspects for YEARS, that they now think they can lie yet again to the American people. It is clear they think we are complete idiots, morons, imbeciles. After billions being spent marketing and trying to sell this horse manure called Obamacare, they think the problem is just bad marketing.

    People like this must be driven from government. This level of arrogance and disrespect simply should not be tolerated.

    March 9, 2014 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  11. Gurgyl

    Nothing wrong with Obamacare. Yes, it is a Law. ACA is a Law, dire need of USA. I told this long time ago. GOP is gone dead, defunct. Period.

    March 9, 2014 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  12. Tampa Tim

    Just – that is a republican lie. Money that was saved from the ACA was put into health care, not stolen. That lie did not work for Mittens and the Ryan budget actually removed the money from Medicare. Do some research.

    March 9, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  13. just asking

    Gurgyl
    Nothing wrong with Obamacare. Yes, it is a Law. ACA is a Law, dire need of USA. I
    --

    what exactly is the aca and obamacare? obama changes it from day to day. 30 going on 40 changes so far. what other 'law' changes like this based on the whim of one person?

    as for dire need, well the numbers sure don't support that. less than 10% of the people without healthcare coverage have gotten it now. why aren't the other 90% storming in for coverage if obamacare is so great? and for this ridiculously small turnout, far more have been damaged by obamacare. obamacare has been a total failure no matter which way you look at it.

    March 9, 2014 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  14. Chris-E...al

    IF the n0t so ACA is THE LAW how can 0bama change it when he fills the need to ? This indeed is breaking the law and he should be jailed and made a example out of ! Ignorance is no defense .

    March 9, 2014 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  15. king

    lesson Obama pushed a trillion dollars down these states throat to jump start the precipice this country was about to fall in. the repubs criticized like their wasn't no tomorrow, now their states are back on their feet they want to tell folks that it was their policies that got their states from out the hole. yet when the focus is on how more and more folks are going below the poverty line, they quickly blame that one on Obama.

    March 9, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  16. Tampa Tim

    To a brain dead right wingnut, helping uninsured people pay for private insurance is bad? Just like they said social security and Medicare are bad. No ideas and no accomplishments for a quarter of a century, and the GOP still has people sipping their snake oil.

    March 9, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  17. king

    lesson dem, you are doomed if you guys run against obamacare. how many folks out their who know this country have been trying to get folks healthcare for a hundred years now and the repubs want to start over waiting for it another hundred years. if you allow the people to vote repubs in, and allow the repubs to kill healthcare, which you guys have fought so hard to accomplished, do you think the country would appreciate it when they go back to the status quo of dying on the street corner and getting bankrupt because you sold out to the repubs. lesson folks this is a new healthcare, so those folks who had healthcare, which becomes into pain care, when you find out that the so called healthcare you had didn't amount to nothing when you need it. the repubs are spending billions of dollars trying to make young people not get healthcare, and usher in back the days of healthcare premium rising at 15 to 20 percent on a yearly basis. obamacare has cut all of that down, but the repubs obstructionist ways of saying hell with folks personal welfare, and hello to politics and the status quo, are in the process of getting it the way it use to be.

    March 9, 2014 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  18. Andrew

    People need to get over the lie. I dont think it was. Just a mistake and it wasnt supposed to be a lie. Whoopee. I keep my insurance and it didnt go up. Hmmph

    March 9, 2014 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  19. termlimits

    Crist is a broken picket fence in a yard of stench smelling sheep.

    March 9, 2014 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  20. Pplgetagrip

    Look everyone know that we voted for the ACA. Its done democrats need to just fight for it now. The republican have nothing if Obamacare is so bad what are the republican offering? Nothing. I'm sick of them being able to not offer anything and people thinks its okay.

    March 9, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  21. Beast

    Obama is effectively repealing his own law all on his own.

    March 9, 2014 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  22. jeremyrnr

    Coward. The only thing you are concerned with, sir, is your political future. The republican party is becoming stronger and not "highjacked" as you, nancy pelosi and harry reid like to state. Why are your type worried about the republican party anyway? Maybe because you are used to getting your way without a fight and are now crying like a 2 year old when the scissors are taken away.? Do the country a favor and crawl back under your rock. Democrats stand for the political "class", wise up you are only useful to them until they don't need you anymore. Ask the members of AARP if I lie, or members of the AMA.

    March 10, 2014 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  23. American Thunder

    Crist also said in the same interview: "Healthcare Is like a civil right. I mean people need shelter. They need food. They need water and they need health care and they deserve it." This says it all about where the democrats want to take this country. After they control our health care we will get Sheltercare and Foodcare. They will dictate housing choices (like Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum) with mandatory one size fits all construction codes on a national basis so people in Kansas will have homes that will withstand hurricanes, people in Arizona floods. They will dictate who can build these homes and with what materials.And of course they will subsidize the resulting higher priced homes for a large segment of the population by taxing the successful. Under Foodcare they will categorize diets (bronze, silver, gold and platinum) dictate minimum dietary requirements and dictate which foods are acceptable and who we can buy them from once again with subsidies. For those who choose not to work, shelter and food, like healthcare, will be free. With standardization we can quickly move to central planning by the government of our agriculture and construction industries as.well as our healthcare providers. Any semblance of our great free enterprise system will be lost along with our freedoms as we become more and more dependent on government intent on controlling our lives through wealth redistribution under the guise of income equality.

    March 10, 2014 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  24. Minnie Mouse

    There are still issues with the states. The federal government only picks up the expansions for the low income for two years after that the states involved are in it alone. A lot are voting this down. Someone has to help pay for all of these families in the low income and the ones who are even in the middle income who still cannot afford healthcare. Changing the way the healthcare system works as far as making the providers for once be responsible by providing better care for everyone and not excluding people is great. As a country things are not any better because millions will still be without healthcare because it's just not affordable. The cheaper as a "Cell Phone", that's not true at all. My cell phone bill alone is $35.00 and for my entire family with 3 phones we pay $170 a month. Our health care is over $400 a month. No one person is going to be able to get insurance for $35 a month.

    March 10, 2014 07:01 am at 7:01 am |