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Has Florida's Charlie Crist flip-flopped on his party, health care, abortion and the stimulus?
Charlie Crist greets a voter on the campaign trail. (Tampa Bay Times photo) Charlie Crist greets a voter on the campaign trail. (Tampa Bay Times photo)

Charlie Crist greets a voter on the campaign trail. (Tampa Bay Times photo)

Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan October 1, 2014

A new ad with an old complaint against Charlie Crist calls it "flippin’ unbelievable" -- then recounts how Crist has flip-flopped on, well, many things.

The ad, put out by the Republican Party of Florida, could have chosen any number of Crist’s positions to highlight, but this one focused on four significant issues: party affiliation, the health care law, abortion and the stimulus. For the most part, it uses clips of Crist’s own contradictory comments before concluding, "That’s flippin’ nuts" and "Charlie Crist, typical flippin’ politician."

Crist, a former Florida governor and once a Republican, is now a Democrat. He's taking on incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Polls have been close with a slight edge for Scott.

Crist as flip-flopper isn’t a new political attack, and it’s up to voters to decide whether his many changes of position are sincere or cynical. Many -- but not all -- seem to track with his change of party from Republican to Democrat.

As for the ad’s substance, it’s on solid ground for saying that Crist has changed positions on two issues and gets partial credit for the other two.

We’ll compare the ad’s claims with what PolitiFact Florida has found about Crist changing positions over the years.

On party affiliation

The ad shows video of Crist saying that he is a Republican, an independent and a Democrat. Crist’s changes of party are well documented. In March 2010, Crist said he intended to run for the U.S. Senate and ruled out running as an independent. That rated a Full Flop on our Flip-O-Meter after he declared he was running as an independent on April 29, 2010. Crist still lost the election to Republican Marco Rubio of Miami. (The Democrat was U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami.)

After the Senate loss, Crist endorsed President Barack Obama for re-election in 2012 and delivered a high-profile speech at the Democratic National Convention. Months later, he formally became a Democrat, revealing the switch at a Christmas party at the White House.

On the health care law

Video shows Crist saying the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, needs to be repealed, then calling it "great."

Crist is now a strong supporter of the health care law. But he hasn’t always been that way.

In the 2010 Senate race, Rubio charged that Crist had taken six different positions on health care. Back then, we rated Rubio’s statement Half True, because we counted only three different positions, not six.

At one point, Crist said he opposed the law and wanted to repeal it, then he said he would have voted for the law, and then he said he wanted to modify the law.

In a March 2014 interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley, Crist said the law was "great" and that Democratic candidates should be more vocal in supporting the law. "They ought to strengthen up," he said. "The president's a smart guy and he's doing the right thing, and God bless him for it."

On the Flip-O-Meter, we rated Crist’s position a Full Flop.

On the economic stimulus

Back in 2009 when he was still Florida governor, Crist supported the economic stimulus, formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The law pumped $787 billion into a sputtering economy after the financial crisis of 2008.

Crist was one of 19 governors who wrote Obama on Feb. 3, 2009, in support of the stimulus. "As stewards of the economies of our respective states and regions, we urge the Congress to reach prompt resolution of all outstanding differences and you to sign the bill when it reaches your desk," the letter said.

Crist then edged away from that support when he was competing to win the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. "You know, unfortunately, the president thinks that everything we need to do for every problem that comes along is spend more money and that's just wrong," he said.

Crist also tried to disavow his earlier support for the stimulus, saying "I didn’t endorse it." Because the evidence clearly contradicted that, PolitiFact Florida rated his statement Pants on Fire.

Throughout all of that, though, he spoke positively about the stimulus preventing teacher layoffs.  "We would have had to let go of over 20,000 schoolteachers in Florida if we hadn't had that support," he said in 2010. Today, he also talks of saving the jobs of 20,000 school teachers thanks to his acceptance of the stimulus. So he seems to like it again. We rated his change a Half Flip.

On abortion

Crist’s positions on abortion have always been consistently contradictory, according to an extensive review of his public comments by PolitiFact Florida. His website now says he "supports a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions."

Over the years, Crist has called himself "pro-life" or "pro-choice" at different points, and he now says he is both. He often -- but not always -- talked about being personally "pro-life" but wanting to respect the right of women to make decisions with their doctors.

His stances on particular abortion laws have been more telling. He has backed restrictions such as a waiting period for minors and a ban on partial birth abortion. But he has also rejected a waiting period for adults and has said he doesn’t want to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Overall, Crist seems to have partially changed position several times, without having any one inflexible position along the way. PolitiFact Florida rated his position on abortion a Half Flip.

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Has Florida's Charlie Crist flip-flopped on his party, health care, abortion and the stimulus?