And it’s not easy switching parties after reaching political success. After nearly three decades as a Republican U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter switched to the Democratic party rather than face a potentially uphill primary battle against a conservative challenger in 2010. Obama and Senate Democrats welcomed him, but Specter lost in that year’s Democratic primary to Rep. Joe Sestak, who went on to lose in the fall to Republican Pat Toomey. Then there’s former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who won office as a Democrat and then lost his 1992 re-election bid as a Republican.
‘‘The strong Democrats are the ones that vote in the non-presidential year, and they’re the ones that are most likely to have a problem with Crist,’’ said Democratic pollster David Beattie.
Beattie, however, said Crist has been smart about the transition because he got people used to the idea of him being a Democrat. After losing his independent bid for Senate, he began doing public events with Democrats. His wife, Carole, switched from Republican to Democrat. Then he began backing Democratic candidates in Florida, then Obama. And he spoke at last summer’s Democratic National Convention.
‘‘There are a lot of people who say, ‘Oh, I thought he did that a long time ago,'’’ Beattie said. ‘‘I don’t think he’s stopped campaigning over the last two years.’’
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