Former Florida governor and ex-Republican Charlie Crist endorsed President Barack Obama on Sunday, calling him "the right leader for our times."
"I applaud and share his vision of a future built by a strong and confident middle class in an economy that gives us the opportunity to reap prosperity through hard work and personal responsibility," Crist wrote in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed on the eve of the Republican National Convention.
Crist, elected governor as a Republican in 2006, left the GOP in 2010 after polls showed him significantly trailing Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate primary. He turned independent and ultimately lost to Rubio in November.
Crist used the endorsement as an opportunity to take a shot at his former party, including making a reference to Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin's recent comments about rape.
"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. "Look no further than the inclusion of the Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion, even for rape victims."
Crist also defended his support for Obama's stimulus plan, a move some speculated cost him his Senate bid: "I didn't stand with our president because of what it could mean politically; I did it because uniting to recover from the worst financial crisis of our lifetimes was more important than party affiliation."
"President Obama has a strong record of doing what is best for America and Florida, and he built it by spending more time worrying about what his decisions would mean for the people than for his political fortunes," Crist wrote. "That's what makes him the right leader for our times, and that's why I'm proud to stand with him today."
Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry quickly blasted Crist's endorsement, calling it "a repugnant display from a self-centered, career politician."
"While the people of Florida, and thousands of visitors who've traveled here, are facing an emergency, Charlie Crist has demonstrated, yet again, that his political ambition will always come first," Curry said in a statement.