Charlie Crist Dishes on Obama, Palin, Rove in New Book

Republican turned Democrat running for governor again.

Former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist gestures during a campaign rally Monday, Nov. 4, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Crist announced that he is running again for governor, this time as a Democrat.

Charlie Crist, who formally became a Democrat in 2012, is running again for governor of Florida, a position he held from 2007 to 2011

For a moment in late October 2010, Charlie Crist thought he had pulled off a political coup that likely could have stopped Marco Rubio’s march to the U.S. Senate.

Two weeks before the election, Crist was walking out of a forum at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., and received a call that Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek was ending his Senate bid, removing the main obstacle that was dividing Democrats in the three-way race.

“‘He’s dropping out,’ I was told. ‘The deal is done,’” Crist writes in his new book, “The Party’s Over: How The Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP and I Became A Democrat,” which was provided to U.S. News ahead of its Tuesday release.

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Of course, that information proved to be wrong.

Despite an intense lobbying effort by former President Bill Clinton to prod Meek to terminate his candidacy and save the open seat from Republican control, the congressman remained in the race until the end, collecting just 20 percent of the vote.

Rubio defeated second-place Crist by a breezy 19 points, but Meek and Crist’s combined portion of the vote was greater than the Republican’s take.

Despite public reports at the time that Meek had agreed to drop out, Crist recounts a personal conversation that captures the congressman’s pained reluctance.

“Certainly, if you leave the race and I end up being successful, your input on issues would be real important to me. You’d be one of my most important constituents if it works out that way,” Crist recalls telling Meek.

“Kendrick nodded and said ‘uh-huh’ as I spoke...He didn’t saw more than ‘uh-huh’,” he writes.

The 57-year-old Crist, who formally became a Democrat in 2012, is now running again for governor, a position he held from 2007 to 2011. Polling has shown him with a single-digit advantage over GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who regularly polls as one of the least popular governors in the country.

Crist devotes much of the final chapter of his book to taking aim at Scott, slamming him as a “terrible governor” who “arrived with a wrecking ball.”

But most of the book recounts the evolution of his political career, including his experience as a potential candidate for vice president and a raucous meeting at the White House where he defended President Barack Obama.

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Here are some notable excerpts from Crist’s book:

On being yelled at by Karl Rove for declining an invitation to appear with President Bush in 2006: “You’ve never been yelled at until you’ve been yelled at by Karl Rove. ‘You chickenshit!,’ he bellowed, almost cutting off my hello. ‘I can’t believe you didn’t show up last night to be with the president!  What a chickenshit thing to do. You were going to get elected anyway. Who do you think you are?’”

On his 2008 voyage to John McCain’s residence in Sedona, Ariz., to be considered for the vice presidency: “We had dinner down by the river one night.  Lindsey [Graham] and Joe [Lieberman] and John kept ragging on one another. We consumed some very nice wine...The only thing that was never discussed was the reason I still think we were there: the vice presidency. Not a mention. Not a word.  Not a syllable.”

On sharing a cabin with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal: “Bobby and Supriya were kind and friendly, though Bobby had a tendency to turn quickly serious. Several times, when the conversation veered toward lighthearted topics, he steered it back to health care reform, energy issues or the economy.”

On his interaction with Sarah Palin on the campaign bus: “She sat by herself on the bus, read some briefing papers and took a few notes. That’s highly unusual for a political personality.  People in our business tend to be outgoing and gregarious...I tried to be friendly. ‘Anything I can do for you just let me know,’ I said cheerily. ‘Thank you,’ was all she answered, her words almost encased in ice...After we’d been riding on the bus a while, she went all the way to the back to be totally alone.  She seemed very uncomfortable around anyone, almost as if she didn’t want to engage in conversation and reveal what she did or didn’t know.”

On a private meeting between governors and President Obama in 2009: “‘Don’t you have any concern about the deficit?,’ one governor asked incredulously. ‘These theories of yours,’ another governor spat out.  ‘A bunch of liberal spending, right?’ ‘You claim,’ I heard someone say quite dismissively...I was seething in my seat. I decided I had to speak. ‘Mr. President,’ I said, ‘I’ve sat here for about an hour.  I’ve listened to my colleagues give you a bunch of garbage. What I see here, I said, is a lack of respect that is unattractive and inappropriate and I am sick of it. It is not the way we ought to be behaving toward one another. It is not the way we ought to be treating you. We ought to be treating each other as we’re told in the Bible -- do unto others.’ The room burst out in applause.

After the meeting broke up, Donald Carcieri, the Republican governor of Rhode Island, patted me on the back.  ‘Wow,’ he said.  ‘That was incredible.’”