Florida's GOP governor backs stimulus, to his party's dismay

As Democrats lavish praise on Florida's Republican governor for enthusiastically supporting their economic stimulus package, Republicans are questioning whether Crist damaged his future.

"I don't think he's helped any national Republican ambitions he may have by stepping up to the plate and batting for the other team. . . . There's a difference between working in a bipartisan way for the common good and switching sides and putting on the other team's jersey," said veteran Republican consultant Alex Castellanos. "At the one moment when we've finally found our voice and remember who we are as Republicans, Charlie Crist forgets. It's stunning."

Crist's full-throated support evoked a rare rebuke from one of his closest political allies, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, who said on the Senate floor that Crist doesn't get it.

"I don't know that my governor understands all the details in this package – that there will be nothing here to help with Florida's housing economy," Martinez said, noting the package is light on stemming the tide of foreclosures.

Crist acknowledged that he hasn't seen all the details but said Florida needs federal help, period.

Still, he is way out of the Republican mainstream in supporting a $789 billion package that won just three Republican votes in the Senate and zero in the House. His inability to support the package drove moderate Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire to withdraw his nomination as President Barack Obama's commerce secretary Thursday.

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