ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday gushed over "rising star" Charlie Crist's decision to leave the Republican Party and run as an independent in the Florida Senate race. Next to a graphic that read "Declaration of Independence," co-host George Stephanopoulos speculated, "Is this trouble for Republicans? Will more independents rise up?" [Audio available here.]
Stephanopoulos also oddly called the Florida governor a both a "GOP star" and a "rising star," despite the fact that Crist's popularity has been fading within the party for almost a year. However, when then-GMA host Diane Sawyer interviewed Joe Lieberman on August 9, 2006, she was highly critical of the Democrat's decision to leave his party.
Sawyer scolded, "Senator, I heard you say 'I'm a Democrat.' But you're talking about running as an independent and there are members of the party who've already said, commentators, that this is a selfish decision. How can you run against the party?...You're going to be all alone out there."
In a segment on Crist's departure, Thursday, reporter Claire Shipman did note the moderate Republican's blunders, such as hugging Barack Obama during a visit last year. Highlighting the potential harm Crist's actions could cause, she trumpeted: "And this new form of Republican fratricide stretches well beyond Florida."
Commenting on Rick Perry's victory over Kay Bailey Hutchinson in Texas, Shipman intoned that this was a "A warning shot that surely chills all moderate incumbent Republicans."
A transcript of the April 29 segment, which airs at 7:09am EDT, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: [ABC graphic: Declaration of Independence]: And as Republicans abandon the fight to block financial reform, a GOP star set to announce he's abandoning the Party to run as an independent. Is this trouble for Republicans? Will more independents rise up?
STEPHANOPOULOS: After the Goldman Sachs grilling on Tuesday in the Senate, Republicans decided to stop blocking debate on President Obama's financial reform bill. And there's been some political drama down in Florida where one of the party's rising stars who has hit a rough patch in his Senate run, Governor Charlie Crist is expected to announce today he is leaving the GOP, but will stay in the Senate race as an independent. Claire Shipman starts us off with this story from Washington. Claire?
ABC GRAPHIC: Declaration of Independence: Top Candidate to Leave Party
CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Good morning, George. That's right. Crist's decision, potential decision certainly is a game-changer in the Florida race. But more importantly, the sunshine state brawl has become now a national petri dish of sorts. It's letting us all look at what can happen in the unpredictable, anti-establishment world of Republican politics these days. The Republican Party made Charlie Crist one of the most powerful political figures in Florida. But he's lost its support. His survival plan now, to walk away.
CHARLIE CRIST: I'd say what I said the other day, things change.
SHIPMAN: Big-time. Once a shoo-in, with a big lead, he now trails political newcomer, rising Republican star and tea party hero, Marco Rubio. What happened? Most point to this embrace. Both the literal arms around President Obama on a Florida visit, but also Crist's more damaging embrace of the Democrats' stimulus plan, a political no-no for most Republicans. Crist may get a second chance as an independent. A recent poll showed him a bit ahead in a three-way spread. But Democrats hope a split of the conservative vote will help their man, Kendrick Meek.
KENDRICK MEEK: Some feel running against two Republicans is better than running against one.
SHIPMAN: And this new form of Republican fratricide stretches well beyond Florida. John McCain is facing a bloody Republican primary in Arizona. And in the Texas gubernatorial primary, Washington-bashing Republican Governor Rick Perry, easily crushed Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, once thought a Republican powerhouse. A warning shot that surely chills all moderate incumbent Republicans. Now, of course, changing party affiliation isn't totally unique. You remember Jim Jeffords, Joe Lieberman, Arlen Specter, a year ago. Most of the time the politicians are doing it because they want to win. But if this sort of political expediency, George, becomes a pattern, it could start to have national implications.