Crist: ‘I Didn’t Leave the Republican Party – It Left Me’

By Melanie Arter | September 7, 2012 | 11:41 AM EDT

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist (AP Photo)

( Speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Thursday that he didn’t leave the Republican Party – “it left me.”

Crist, a Republican who became an independent in 2010, said, “Half a century ago, Ronald Reagan, the man whose optimism was inspiring to me to enter politics, he famously said at one time that he did not leave the Democratic Party, but the party left him.

“Well listen, I can relate. I didn’t leave the Republican Party. It left me. Then again, my friend Jeb Bush recently noted himself President Reagan would have been too moderate, too reasonable for today’s GOP,” Crist said.

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“I’ll be honest with you. I don’t agree with President Obama about everything, but I have gotten to know him, and I’ve worked with him. And the choice is crystal clear. When he took office, the economic crisis had already put my state of Florida on the edge of disaster,” he said.

“The foreclosure crisis was consuming homeowners. The tourists we depend on couldn’t visit, and the vital construction industry had come to a standstill. President Obama saw what I saw – a catastrophe in the making – and he took action,” Crist added.

“One of his first trips in office brought him to Ft. Myers, Florida, where I was proud to embrace him and his plan to keep our teachers, police, and firefighters on the job. Well that hug caused me more grief from my party than you can ever imagine, but even as the Republican Party fought tooth and to stop him, this president showed his courage, invested in America, and saved our Florida,” he said.

“Two years later, Florida and the Gulf Coast faced the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. This time when a ruptured well spilled nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama came to our rescue again, leading a massive cleaning effort and demanding accountability from those responsible,” Crist said.

“My friends, he didn’t see a red state. He didn’t see a blue state. He simply saw Americans who needed help, and once again, I saw the leader our country needs,” the former governor added.