Charlie Crist endorses President Barack Obama

(CNN) -- Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who served as a Republican but is now listed with no party affiliation, endorsed President Barack Obama on Sunday.

"As America prepares to pick our president for the next four years - and as Florida prepares once again to play a decisive role - I'm confident that President Barack Obama is the right leader for our state and the nation," Crist wrote in an op-ed published by the Tampa Bay Times.

Crist argued the president had proven leadership capabilities during his three and a half years in office. He also charged the GOP with being out of touch. At the heart of his argument, Crist wrote Republicans had moved "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."

He specifically pointed to draft language in the Republican Party's platform including a call for a constitutional ban on abortion that makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

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

Crist has been known to voice his criticism of the GOP and side with Democrats on certain issues in the past. Following his failure to capture the Republican nomination in a Senate battle against now-Sen. Marco Rubio in 2010, Crist ran as an independent. And earlier this month, the former governor endorsed Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson in his fight to defend his seat against Republican challenger Rep. Connie Mack.

In his op-ed Sunday, Crist also praised Obama for his role in the economic recovery following the 2008 financial collapse and ensuing recession.

"The president's response was swift, smart and farsighted. He kept his compass pointed due north and relentlessly focused on saving jobs, creating more and helping the many who felt trapped beneath the house of cards that had collapsed upon them," he wrote.

He further highlighted the president's education and health care policies, insisting "we have more work to do, more investments to make and more waste to cut.

"But only one candidate in this race has proven a willingness to navigate a realistic path to prosperity," he wrote.

Responding to the op-ed Sunday, some Florida Republicans said Crist's endorsement was nothing more than a political ploy.

"I've said it time and again, Charlie Crist is the silly putty of Florida politics, he'll bend and twist whatever direction you want and if you smash him against the newspaper he'll offer you a poll-tested, mirror version," Brian Hughes, a well-respected Florida GOP strategist, said.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Florida Republican Party described Crist's op-ed as "political opportunism."

"Make no mistake about it: This is Charlie Crist trying to shed his skin for a political comeback," Lenny Curry said in a statement. "Despite the threat Florida is facing from a severe storm, Charlie Crist has demonstrated, yet again, that his political ambition will always come before the needs of Floridians."

Curry then listed a number of quotes in which Crist attempted to bolster his conservative credentials throughout his career in Florida politics.

CNN's Ashley Killough, Peter Hamby and Mark Preston contributed to this report.

 
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