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Charlie Crist backs President Obama

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist Getty Images

(CBS News) Just two days before the official kick-off of the Republican National Convention in Tampa this week, Charlie Crist, Florida's Republican-turned-independent former governor, officially announced his endorsement - not for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but for President Obama.

In a Sunday op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times, Crist, who ran an unsuccessful bid for the 2010 Republican Florida Senate nomination before launching a bid as an independent, lauded Mr. Obama's handling of the economy and maligned "extreme rhetoric" nationwide.

"Across Florida, in Washington and around the country, I've watched the failure of those who favor extreme rhetoric over sensible compromise," he wrote. "I've seen how those who never lose sight of solutions sow the greatest successes."

"We have more work to do, more investments to make and more waste to cut," Crist continued. "But only one candidate in this race has proven a willingness to navigate a realistic path to prosperity."

The Miami Herald's Marc Caputo pointed to the op-ed as another piece of mounting evidence that Crist is planning on joining the Democratic Party. He also speculated that Crist is positioning himself for a potential speaking slot at next week's Democratic convention, and possibly even a gubernatorial run in two years.

Republicans were quick to write off the former governor's remarks.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry chairman, meanwhile, blasted Crist for what he called a "repugnant display."

"Today we have seen a repugnant display from a self-centered, career politician," Curry said in a statement. "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."

Meanwhile, on ABC's "This Week," Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, chair of the Republican Platform Committee, said, "Governor Crist's endorsement adds one more vote in Florida and that's it. He's wrong on about every other point."

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