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Official: Former Gov. Crist To Speak At DNC

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(Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — President Barack Obama gave Charlie Crist a hug. Mitt Romney gave him $1 million. Apparently the hug meant more to Crist.

The former Republican governor confirmed Monday that he will be speaking at the Democratic National Convention next week in Charlotte, N.C. It’s news that comes as Republicans hold their convention to nominate Romney as their presidential candidate — an event being held across Tampa Bay from Crist’s St. Petersburg home.

“I think so much of what the president has done and the good he’s tried to do for Florida,” Crist said.

He cited the efforts to help the Gulf Coast states after the BP oil spill and money that the president tried to steer to Florida for a bullet train, which Gov. Rick Scott rejected.

“On issue after issue after issue, he’s proven himself as the kind of person who’s willing to work across the aisle for the betterment of the people.”

Crist left the party in 2010 after declaring he would run for the U.S. Senate as an independent. He was chased from the Republican primary after falling behind eventual winner Marco Rubio in the polls. Rubio overcame a disadvantage in money and support with a message that Crist was not a true conservative — a strategy that was punctuated with a photo of Crist embracing Obama at a 2009 rally to push for the $787 billion federal stimulus package.

In 2006, Romney, then the Massachusetts governor, gave Crist a $1 million check from the Republican Governors Association to help Crist’s gubernatorial campaign.

Crist on Sunday endorsed Obama.

At a Republican Party of Florida breakfast for convention delegates in Palm Harbor on Monday, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford mocked Crist. He mentioned Tropical Storm Isaac, then said, “Speaking of winds blowing and people shifting positions, the Florida Republican Party had a former member of the Republican Party by the name of Charlie Crist.”

The delegates booed.

“I knew that hugs could be powerful, but I really just had no idea until yesterday,” Weatherford said.

Also at the breakfast, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam criticized Crist for thinking of his own political career first.

“He’ll wear any costume just to get in the parade,” Putnam said.

Crist said he anticipated the criticism.

“I didn’t expect them to be jumping for joy,” he said. Crist also said he is not thinking about his party registration right now, but is thinking only about what is in the best interest of the country.

Crist is not registered with either party, but there has been widespread speculation that he will try to make a political comeback as a Democrat and possibly challenge his Republican successor, Scott. That speculation has increased as his wife, Carole, changed her voter registration from Republican to Democrat and after he said he would support Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson’s re-election campaign over Rep. Connie Mack IV. Now, there’s the Obama endorsement and a speaking role at the nominating convention.

Crist has criticized his former party for going too far to the right. As a governor, he was known for being a populist who would welcome Democrats in his office as much as Republicans. He also angered Republicans by vetoing high-priority GOP bills on education and abortion restrictions.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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