Tallahassee, FL - "So help me God..."
Charlie Crist took office four years ago vowing to be 'The people's governor'... A man who would put populism over politics. And by his own account, he's done exactly that. In an exclusive interview, Governor Crist says he's most proud of his fiscal conservatism - historic for its reach.
Gov. Charlie Crist says, "I signed the largest tax cut in the history of the state, reduced government spending more than any governor in the history of Florida, about 7.4 billion dollars in reductions, and I'm very pleased for that, and I think it's what the people wanted and needed, particularly in this economy."
And yet, he was defeated in his bid for the U.S. Senate, with his old Republican friends calling Crist a 'political chameleon'... A man who abandoned his GOP principles in the name of winning higher office.
Q: Why the criticism, do you think?
A: I think it's because I was kind to President Obama.
At a stimulus rally in February 2009, Crist may well have sealed his political fate with 'the hug'... An enthusiastic embrace of Obama and his policies at around the same time the Tea Party was gaining strength.
Q: I know you've made the argument that you would have left regardless of whether or not you trailed Marco Rubio by 30 points in the U.S. Senate race, but I have to tell you, governor, a lot of people find that very hard to believe. What would you tell them?
A: Well, it was pure and simple. The hard right part of the Republican Party really had taken hold. You know, I was anti-tax, pro-life, wanted to do the kinds of things that generally Republicans embraced, but it wasn't pure enough, and I'm not sure what that meant, but it made me uncomfortable, so I became an independent. It's not about one club or the other!
In the end, the governor's move to the middle may be his legacy in the history books. But, Crist points out he's a young man - only 54 years old - with a name recognition few politicians in Florida can match. Not that he'll make any promises about returning to the political stage... Just a wish.
Crist says, "I hope that Charlie - me - will be remembered as a nice person who cared about others and tried to work hard for the people of his state."