Charlie Crist Endorses Obama for President

Renegade Florida governor plugs Democrats on eve of Tampa convention.

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Asked whether the Obama endorsement reflects his own possible political future, Crist said, "No, what it means is that I care about my state and I care about our country."

He denied he timed his announcement to draw more news coverage or to toss cold water on the convention. Asked why he did it Sunday, he said, "This one's as good as any other," and "I don't know if it will or it won't" get more attention.

He said Obama "really proved himself to me" with his economic stimulus program, his response to the BP oil spill, his attempt to provide Florida with a high-speed rail grant and his education reform program, Race to the Top, from which Florida benefitted.

In response to suggestions he may work with the Obama campaign, perhaps even speaking at the Democratic convention in Charlotte, Crist said he's had "very little" contact with the Obama campaign and isn't sure whether he'll be involved.

[Photos: Obama's Re-Election Campaign]

He said the country needs "leadership willing to work across the aisle for the benefit of all Americans. Words like 'compromise' and 'cooperation' are almost demonized by some Republicans and I think that's unhealthy."

Crist denied GOP suggestions that he has drastically changed his position on issues including same-sex marriage and abortion, saying he still holds the same conservative positions on those issues as in the past, but "I believe in live and let live and not imposing my values on others."

Latvala, acknowledging he is often called a moderate by other Republicans, said Crist as a state senator was "well to my right early in my career" and has clearly changed his political philosophy.

"If he'd been a moderate like me for 20 years, that's one thing, but he's been all over the board. It makes me think it's opportunism."

The Obama campaign issued a news release that simply reprinted Crist's written endorsement of Obama but contained no other reaction. No campaign spokesman would provide an on-the-record comment.

"Charlie Crist sent a powerful message to his former party today," said a statement from Florida Democratic Party director, adding, "the GOP has left him and thousands of independent minded Floridians like him, in pursuit of an extreme agenda driven by controversial social issues and backward looking policies."

Obama campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Young said later the endorsement "reminds Floridians of how far President Obama has moved this state and our nation forward … from the worse recession since the Great Depression."

This story originally appeared in Tampa Bay Online.