Four years after he nominated Barack Obama at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Democrat-turned-Republican Artur Davis gave a blistering address criticizing his former party for racking up debt and growing the government on the opening night of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.
“What a difference four years makes,” Davis said.
The former House member from Alabama has become popular on the Republican circuit since switching parties earlier this year. In doing so, he’s provided the GOP with a young (age 44) African-American politician from the South, while reviving his own hopes of returning to public office after losing a Democratic primary for Alabama governor in 2010. Davis recently moved to Virginia and is mulling a future bid for office.
Davis was a national cochair of Obama's campaign four years ago and seconded the then-Illinois senator's nomination at the convention in Denver. On Tuesday night, he almost apologized for getting wrapped up in the historic “hype” of Obama’s first run.
“Maybe the Hollywood stars and the glamour blinded us a little,” Davis said. “You thought it was the glare, some of us thought it was a halo.”
He criticized Obama for “flowery words” and urged the public to “put poetry aside.”
Davis also touched on the racially charged issue of welfare, and Romney’s recent comment that Obama, in allowing states to change work requirements, was trying to “shore up his base.” Davis defended the thrust of recent Romney ads, which independent fact-checkers have said are inaccurate.
“Bill Clinton took on his base and made welfare a thing you had to work for,” Davis said. “This current crowd guts the welfare work requirement in the dead of night and won’t tell the truth about it.”
Davis is the latest in a long line of party-switchers who have gone behind what were once enemy lines during national conventions. In 2008, Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., spoke at the GOP convention to endorse Sen. John McCain, only eight years after he was the Democratic vice presidential nominee. And in 2004, it was Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia who gave a combative speech against Democrats, 12 years after serving as the Democratic party’s convention keynote speaker.
This year, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist — who served as a Republican but now is an independent — endorsed Obama on the eve of the GOP convention. He was quickly given a speaking slot at next week’s Democratic gathering in Charlotte.
Even before Davis took the stage, black Democratic lawmakers criticized their former colleague for his political change of heart. Fourteen members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote an open letter to Davis accusing him of a “complete flip-flop on certain core principles you once held dear.”
“We can only conclude that, rather than a true conversion, your actions are the result of a nakedly personal and political calculation or simmering anguish” over the losing the governor’s race, they wrote.