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Ex-Republican Charlie Crist backs President Obama, will speak at Democratic convention

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, an ex-Republican, has endorsed President Obama and will speak at the Democratic National Convention next week in Charlotte.

Crist’s speaking role, reported by the Associated Press and ABC News, gives both parties a prominent defector. Ex-Democrat Artur Davis, a former representative of Alabama and the man who seconded President Obama’s nomination at the Democratic convention in 2008, is slated to address the Republican convention this week in Tampa.

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On Sunday, The Tampa Bay Times published an op-ed by Crist, now an independent, in which he announced his endorsement of Obama and blasted his former party. Crist credited Obama with a “swift, smart and farsighted” response to the nation’s economic crisis early in his term and said Republicans “favor extreme rhetoric over sensible compromise.”

“An element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors, and students that they’ve proven incapable of governing for the people,” Crist wrote.

“The truth is that the party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve,” he added.

Crist was elected governor of Florida as a Republican in 2006. He did not seek reelection in 2010 and instead ran for Senate as an independent, losing to Republican Marco Rubio, who will introduce Mitt Romney at the Republican convention on Thursday.

Republicans on Sunday downplayed the importance of Crist’s Obama endorsement, despite his former leadership of a critical swing state.

“Governor Crist’s endorsement adds one more vote in Florida, and that’s it,” Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Crist is rumored to be mulling another run for governor, as a Democrat. He offered no indication of his future plans in Sunday’s op-ed, but Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry said the endorsement shows Crist’s “political ambition will always come first.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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