Crist comes around (again) on stimulus

CRIST COMES AROUND (AGAIN) ON STIMULUS…. A year ago, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) became one of the highest-profile Republicans to support President Obama’s stimulus package, and appeared alongside the president at a public event in the Sunshine State. Since then, supporting economic recovery has become scandalous in GOP circles — and Crist’s career is in jeopardy for having backed the legislation that saved the country from a depression.

The governor, now running for the Senate, has struggled badly to defend his sound judgment in the face of right-wing attacks. At times Crist has even denied supporting the measure he publicly endorsed.

Now, Crist is trying a new tack — refusing to apologize for being right.

Accepting stimulus money was the “responsible, right thing to do,” Crist told reporters at the White House on Monday. “It puts people above politics,” Crist said. When asked about whether he had any regrets, Crist said he had “none whatsoever.”

“I don’t apologize for it at all,” Crist added. “It was the right thing to do. We needed the money.”

Crist added this morning, “Our economy was going off into the abyss and if we didn’t have those monies, we would have had 87,000 people out of work today in the Sunshine State. Twenty thousand of those are educators, and how many people does that translate into in terms of the children they teach?” He went on to describe the idea as “a common sense approach.”

Asked about Republicans who say the stimulus hasn’t created any jobs, Crist said, “That’s not the case in Florida.”

To be sure, plenty of Republican governors have reached the same conclusion. Even Republican governors who claim to hate the stimulus actually love the stimulus. GOP lawmakers on the Hill who insist that the stimulus hasn’t done any good — or worse, the recovery effort actually hurt the economy — have no allies or supporters outside their caucus room and far-right media outlets.

But Crist’s renewed support for the stimulus is more interesting than most, because it’s hurt him so badly in his Republican primary — a primary race he’s now losing.

Does Crist believe the economy is going to start improving, and he wants to take credit? Is he perhaps positioning himself to switch parties, realizing that Republicans have gone way too far to the right?

One thing’s for sure — up until recently, Crist wanted to pretend he had nothing to do with the stimulus, and now he’s embracing it with both arms.