Crist also likes acting. Soon after taking the job, he released commercials, some of which bear no relevance to personal-injury litigation. In one, he exalts the sacrifice of our "unsung heroes": police and correctional officers. In another, he lionizes one more key constituency: "Teachers are overworked, underpaid, and, for some reason, never fully appreciated," says Crist, looking earnest. "To our teachers, you have our deepest gratitude. Thank a teacher."

Next came the billboards, dozens of them along Florida's Turnpike and elsewhere, showing a beaming Crist reminding the public, among other things, not to text and drive.

The job has allowed Crist to retain his celebrity while stitching together a nascent network of fundraisers. "If Charlie runs for governor," Morgan says, "I'll be extremely active in fundraising for him."

Crist (right) played quarterback for the St. Pete High Green Devils.
St. Petersburg High
Crist (right) played quarterback for the St. Pete High Green Devils.
Crist; his wife, Carole; and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz greet fans at a rally in Hollywood.
Terrence McCoy
Crist; his wife, Carole; and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz greet fans at a rally in Hollywood.

His fame, though, sometimes lures unwanted attention. In December 2011 at a New York Supreme Court hearing, Todd Rome chanted at him: "Big dick. You're a big dick. Big dick."

Rome had sued his ex, Carole, for abandoning their children. He claimed she'd been contractually bound to provide child support and emotional care for their children, and she'd reneged. New York Supreme Court Judge Matthew Cooper, however, disagreed. "I can't make her visit her children," he said, according to the New York Post.

Afterward, Mark Heller, Rome's celebrity lawyer, laid it on thick for reporters. "Mrs. Crist's purported heartless disconnect from both her devastated teenage daughters... shocked the good conscience of all courtroom observers and drew genuine tears of pain," he told the Post.

But hiccups have never derailed Crist. And they didn't this time. His moment arrived this past August when the Democrats invited him to deliver an address at their national convention. Then he stumped all over the nation for Barack Obama.

The president took notice. Less than 48 hours after he was re-elected, amid the parties, Benghazi controversy, and fiscal cliff apoplexy, Obama found time to call Crist on his cell in St. Petersburg. While Crist adopts a nonchalant attitude when telling this story, the conversation was anything but ordinary. He might be the only Florida politician to have received such attention.

"He said, 'Thank you for all of your work.' He expressed frustration over the problems we had with early voting and asked whether there was anything I could do about it."

Crist said there was, and it was clear what he meant.

At exactly 6 o'clock on a Wednesday morning this past November, Crist, clutching a small white towel, steps into an elevator at his St. Pete apartment building. He's clad in light-blue pleated shorts, a yellow T-shirt, and teal flip-flops. He is shaved and showered, and the elevator is heavy with the smell of Brut. Crist has a gym date.

The elevator ascends to the top floor, and the ex-governor gets down to business. But even at the workout's zenith, after he has bench-pressed 170 pounds and worked his triceps on the pulley machine, he doesn't sweat. His face's bronzed sheen gives way to an angry red, but not one bead of perspiration appears.

After putting in 15 minutes of weight work, Crist lowers himself into the rooftop heated swimming pool. Then he crawls back and forth, back and forth, 15 seconds off, 45 seconds on. Finally, emerging from the deep, he heads downstairs, buys a Tampa Bay Times, and, still in teal flip-flops, flutters to a Starbucks for a caramel pecan tart latte. "An indulgence," he sighs.

The Tampa Bay Times carries a story that day about a new bill entering the state legislature to expand Florida's early voting. This intrigues Crist. He calls the tactics that Rick Scott pursued to dissuade turnout "uncon­scionable." His eyes are electric when he says this.

Just as he once attracted attention to prisoner chain gangs and controversy over Florida electricity, voter suppression has become his new issue. This aligns the "people's governor" again with the people — and against Scott. The public furor over this past fall's vote, along with the fact that Crist extended early voting in 2008, might be enough to launch him back to Tallahassee.

In mid-December he officially registered as a Democrat, and five days later he materialized at a U.S. Senate hearing in Washington. Wearing a pregnant expression and a navy pinstriped suit with a gold-and-blue tie, he lampooned the current governor. "The outcome of [Scott's] decisions was quite obvious," Crist said. "Florida, which four years earlier was a model for efficiency, became once again a late-night TV joke."

Though such signs point to another run at governor, what remains unclear, however, is whether Crist will win. How long will the early-voting calamity resonate? What will the money-laundering case against Jim Greer, the Crist-appointed and allegedly corrupt Republican chairman, shake loose about Crist?

Besides, if Crist's loss to Marco Rubio proves anything, it's the capricious nature of primaries. They're not won with fame but by an active party nucleus. "There's a difference of opinion between longtime party activists and the casual voters," says Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida political scientist. "And someone who is a longtime activist in the Democratic Party will be resentful of him stepping in."

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Brandon Yen
Brandon Yen

I live in fl. and I would welcome Charlie Crist back as a governor instead of Rick Scott.


I like Charlie and want him back in Tallahassee


He probably didn't reach his full potential as a QB because, at least according to the picture accompanying this article, he smoked hookah on the sidelines of his football games.


I agree that obviously Crist would be better than Rick Scott. But what Florida's Dems need to ask themselves is, in a situation where you have an incredibly unpopular and (by all appearances) beatable incumbant Republican, are you going to use that opportunity to nominate somebody that has spent his entire political career as a Republican (until he was about to lose a primary)?


@FatHand as an independent, I would vote for Scott before Charlie. At least he's honest about his slimy ness.