An "open primary" is one in which voting is not restricted only to the registered members of a particularly party. In Florida, for example, when the GOP presidential race was at its apex back in late January, only registered Republicans could cast a vote for Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich or anyone else still in the race. Independents and Democrats who wanted to back one of those candidates were out of luck.
Former Democratic state Senator Dan Gelber of Miami Beach supports bringing the open primary concept to Florida, and he got a big-named backer this weekend in former Governor Charlie Crist, who came out in favor of open primaries on Chuck Todd's MSNBC chat fest The Daily Rundown on Monday.
"If you have open primaries where people in some states can already do this, whether you're a Republican, an independent or a Democrat, on primary election day you can decide in that party's primary, even if it's not your own," Crist said.
"How does that help with transparency?" Crist continued. "Well it sort of will weaken, if you will, the authority and the power of the party to just being an exclusive club…"
Immediately Todd interjected, asking the former governor if, by weakening political parties, he would want to boost the power of unaccountable Super PACS?
The populist Crist said not at all.
"The power ought to be in the people. And if you allow the people the freedom to exercise their right to vote on primary day as well as general election day, I think what you end up of having is a more powerful electorate, and that's what it should be: It's of the people, by the people and for the people. And that's where the power ought to be vested."
Crist went on to tell Todd that he's as concerned as anybody about independent third party fundraising, calling the Citizens United decision a "catastrophe," and saying he hopes that perhaps after the election a victorious Barack Obama will select new Supreme Court justices that will overturn that 2010 decision.
Cynics could question Crist's new-found love for such a system for voting. But if the independent Crist decides to run in the Democratic primary for governor in 2014, having Republicans and independents able to get in on the Democratic election could be huge for his chances against a Nan Rich, an Alex Sink, or any other true-blue Democrat.
That's of course assuming that Crist decides to run in the Democratic primary in the first place. The former governor denies any such interest at the moment, going only as far to say that he is strongly supporting Barack Obama in his re-election bid next month.
But of course he's seriously flirting with the party, and at least certain Democrats are more than happy to welcome the interest. Crist was given a speaking role at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, and he also showed up at the Hillsborough County Democrats annual fundraising dinner late last month.
Chuck Todd also asked Crist about two of the more "bombastic" Floridians trying to elected to Congress this fall — South Florida Tea Party favorite Allen West and Orlando-area firebrand Democrat Alan Grayson. West is running for re-election against Democrat Patrick Murphy, while Grayson is trying to avenge his 2010 loss in his race against Republican Todd Long.
Crist predicted both Democrats would win this fall, but was questioned by Todd if Grayson's take-no-prisoners style would be a good fit for an already too partisan Congress?
"I think we need more civility. Alan has a tendency to be strong in her verbiage and everybody has his own style. But he's probably being true to himself, and if the people in his district elect him, than that's what the results should be."
Spoken like a man who doesn't have a problem with Alan Grayson at all as he ingratiates himself with his potential new political party.
It should be noted that Dan Gelber was not advocating per se that Floridians change their way of voting. He suggested that the Democrats on their own could do so, saying that it would force Democrats to engage with voters who they generally don't attempt to appeal to during their primary elections.