Aug. 16, 2012 -- intro: Less than two years ago, 120,050 Alabama Democrats went to the primary polls and voted for four-term Rep. Artur Davis to represent the party in the 2010 governor's race. Unfortunately for the congressman, about 200,000 others came out to support his opponent, effectively ending Davis's career in Dixie Democratic politics.
Today, the Republican National Committee revealed Davis will be speaking at their convention in Tampa, Fla.
Davis, a newly registered Virginia Republican, has hit the trail in support of Mitt Romney, accepting an invitation he received after a pair of successful speaking engagements early last month. The second, in Falls Church, Va., on July 10, was described by the Birmingham News as "sermon-like," "invoking both the 1980 Reagan revolution and Rosa Parks [and it] earned a standing ovation and chants of 'U.S.A.'"
Political switcharoos happen for lots of reasons, and Davis's decision follows the usual logic, but his trajectory is impressive by any standard.
At the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, then Rep. Davis gave a stirring nominating speech in support of then candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.
Now, just four years later, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him pumping up Romney during the GOP convention in Tampa.
Davis is this season's most high-profile political turncoat, which puts him in some heavy-hitting company.
quicklist: 1category: Switching Sides: American Political Turncoatstitle: Zell Miller url:
text:Miller is remembered as much for ditching the Democrats as for the whacky nature of his farewell. In all, he had spent 16 years as Georgia's lieutenant governor, another eight in the governor's mansion himself, and then, after being appointed following the death of the Republican imcumbent, one short -- but eventful -- term in the U.S. Senate. But by 2004, as he approached his 20th year in office as a moderate Democrat, Miller flipped. Though he officially remained a Democrat – "til the day I die," he said – Miller gave a keynote speech at the Republican nomination, endorsing President George W. Bush's push for a second term.
And then, after delivering his fiery remarks -- John Kerry, he said, wants to give terrorists a "'yes-no-maybe' bowl of mush that can only encourage our enemies" -- Miller stepped outside and challenged a cable news host to a duel.
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quicklist: 2category: Switching Sides: American Political Turncoatstitle: Michele Bachmannurl:
text: The leader of the congressional Tea Party caucus and former Republican presidential primary contender Michele Bachmann is one of the country's best know Republicans. What most people do not know is that Bachmann worked for Democrat Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign in college. She was – her words - "a reasonable, decent, fair-minded person who happened to be a Democrat."
What set off her defection? According to the congresswoman, we have the late Gore Vidal to either thank or blame. Speaking in Michigan in December 2010, she explained: "I was reading this snotty novel. It was written by Gore Vidal, and I was maybe like a junior in college, or — yeah, I think was maybe a junior in college. I was reading this snotty novel, and he was going after our founders. And he was mocking them. And he was making fun out of them… I knew that that was not representative of my country… I put the book down and I laughed. I was riding a train. I looked out the window and I said, 'You know what? I think I must be a Republican. I don't think I'm a Democrat.'"
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quicklist: 3category: Switching Sides: American Political Turncoatstitle: Joe Liebermanurl:
text: Sen. Joe Lieberman was – depending on how you like to measure these things – either a few more forcefully punctured Florida presidential ballots or one Supreme Court vote away from being Vice President Joe Lieberman. Al Gore's 2000 running mate was never a hardcore lefty, but his support of the Iraq War made him vulnerable to a challenge from inside his Democratic party in 2006. After losing to an anti-war candidate in the primary, Lieberman switched his affiliation to Independent, and won re-election to the Senate that way.
Two years later, Lieberman was all-in for his Republican friend and presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain. He was even rumored to be on McCain's shortlist for another vice presidential nomination. McCain would opt for a little known Alaska governor to fill that role, but Lieberman stayed onboard and was given a primetime speaking role at the 2008 Republican convention.
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quicklist: 4category: Switching Sides: American Political Turncoatstitle: Hillary Clintonurl:
text: The Secretary of State, America's most popular national Democrat, and former first lady used to be accused of having "skeletons in her closet." It was a partisan attack, mostly from rival Republicans. But what of her fellow Democrats, could they have possibly known how she spent the fall of 1964?
Born in Chicago in 1947, Clinton grew up in a split household – her mother a Democrat, father a Republican. By the time the '64 election came around, the high school senior's allegiance was secured: "My best friend and I became, quote, 'Goldwater Girls,' Clinton said. "We got to wear cowboy hats. I mean, it was really a lot of fun."
Clinton's dalliance with conservatism would end soon after Goldwater was trounced by Lyndon Johnson and she left Chicago for Wellesley College. Despite becoming head of the College Republicans, she started having doubts. "I really started thinking hard about what I thought about a lot of issues," she said, years later. "I realized I might not know what I was, but I couldn't claim to be a Republican."
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quicklist: 5category: Switching Sides: American Political Turncoatstitle: Richard Shelbyurl:
text: Alabama's popular Senate Republican was once a popular Senate Democrat. And before that, he was a popular four-term congressman representing Tuscaloosa (home to the University of Alabama) and outlying areas. Shelby swapped sides in 1994, just a few days after Republicans took control of both houses of Congress during mid-term elections.
"[The decision] probably helped my future," he told CNN's Jeanne Meserve in 2001, "but I didn't do it because of that. I did it because I felt like it was time to leave the party because I felt like the party had left me and my followers many years before."
Shelby was re-elected for the third time as a Republican in 2010.
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quicklist: 6category: Switching Sides: American Political Turncoatstitle: Robert Byrdurl:
text: When West Virginia's Robert Byrd entered the Senate in 1959, Dwight Eisenhower was a lame duck president, Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" had just debuted in California, and Castro was 24 hours from marching on the Cuban capital, Havana.
Lots changed during the 51 years he spent as a senator, and Byrd himself was no exception.
In 1964, he joined a number of his Southern colleagues to filibuster against the Civil Rights bill, at one point spending more than 12 consecutive hours – as part of an 83-day effort – speaking in an effort to delay or block passage of the law.
He would later apologize for those actions, and for opposing the Voting Rights Act a year later. (His views on LGBT Rights didn't evolve so thoroughly, if at all. He voted against allowing gays in the military in 1993 and in favor of the federal anti-gay marriage Defense of Marriage Act three years later.)
Byrd never changed parties, but by remaining a Democrat through more than a half-century his reversal might be the most complete of anyone on this list.
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