'Centrist" Fla Gov. Charlie Crist Now "Chain-Gang Charlie"

Adam Nagourney felt obliged to make moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, a possible McCain Veep pick, into a hard-line, law-and-order conservative.

In his Thursday front-page story on the McCain veep speculation, Adam Nagourney for some reason felt obliged to paint Fla. Governor Charlie Crist as a hard-core conservative.

As governor of Florida, Mr. Crist, 51, would bring obvious assets to the Republican ticket, beginning with his popularity in a state that is almost always an electoral battleground - and where Mr. Obama appears to be struggling. Mr. Crist's relative youth could also be an asset for Mr. McCain, who has made clear that age will be a consideration in his search for a running mate.

In Florida, Mr. Crist has long been known for his affability and a campaign skills. Instantly recognizable because of his perpetual tan and striking white hair, Mr. Crist, who was Florida's attorney general before being elected governor in 2006, has also acquired a reputation as something of a hard-liner on law and order issues.

He supports the death penalty, largely opposes restrictions on the rights of gun owners, early on earned the nickname "Chain Gang Charlie" because he favored allowing convicts to be used in road work, and has described himself as a "pro-life and pro-family" candidate.

That's not how the Times has seen Crist in the past. From a March 17 profile by Abby Goodnough:

But while Mr. Rubio and other conservatives in Tallahassee have begun grumbling about Mr. Crist's centrism - and his proposals to expand gambling and to dip into reserves instead of cutting more from the state budget - his approval rating among voters remains high.