On Thursday, St. Petersburg native and former Florida GOP Governor Charlie Crist spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Below are his remarks.
Thank you! What an incredible night. Optimism is in the air. And what an honor to be here with you, to stand with our president, Barack Obama. Half a century ago, Ronald Reagan, the man whose relentless optimism inspired me to enter politics, famously said that he didn't leave the Democratic Party; the party left him. I can certainly relate. I didn't leave the Republican Party; it left me. Then again, as my friend Jeb Bush recently noted, Reagan himself would have been too moderate and too reasonable for today's GOP.
We face serious challenges in this country. We must create good middle-class jobs so we can have an economy built to last. We must rebuild our roads and bridges, and improve our public schools. And particularly important to me and my state is the challenge of saving Medicare and Social Security so we can keep our promise to seniors. But there are common sense solutions within our reach if we have leaders who are willing and enthusiastic to find common ground. No political party has a monopoly on that kind of leadership. But as a former lifelong Republican, it pains me to tell you that today's Republicans—and their standard-bearers, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan—just aren't up to the task. They're beholden to "my way or the highway" bullies, indebted to billionaires who bankroll ads and allergic to the very idea of compromise. Ronald Reagan would not have stood for that. Barack Obama does not stand for that. You and I won't stand for that.
I'll be honest with you, I don't agree with President Obama about everything. But I've gotten to know him, 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. The foreclosure crisis was consuming homeowners, the tourists we depend on couldn't afford to visit and our vital construction industry had come to a standstill. President Obama saw what I saw: a catastrophe in the making. And he took action.
One of his first trips in office brought him to Fort Myers, 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 former party than you can ever imagine. But even as the Republican Party fought tooth and nail to stop him, this president showed his courage, invested in America—and saved Florida. 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 five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama came to our rescue again, leading a massive cleanup effort and demanding accountability from those responsible. He didn't see a red state or a blue state. He simply saw Americans who needed help. And I once again saw the leader our country needs.
You know, I used to play quarterback just down the road from here at Wake Forest. My dad always told me, "Charlie, it takes a cool head to win a hot game." Our country is in the middle of a hot game. We face serious challenges, both at home and abroad. Meanwhile, our politics are defined by discord and discontent. Never has it been harder for a president to keep a cool head. And never has it been more important. I look around Florida, and I see a state bursting with diversity and opportunity, a state that looks like America's future. When I look at the Republican ticket today, I see two candidates who would break the fundamental promise of Medicare and Social Security, and cut investments in our middle class which are so important to our economic recovery. And when I look at President Obama, I see a leader with a cool head, a caring heart and an open mind, a president who has demonstrated through his demeanor and through his deeds that he is uniquely qualified to heal our divisions, rebuild our nation and lead us to a brighter future together.
That's the leader Florida needs. That's the leader America needs. And that's the reason I'm here tonight, not as a Republican, not as a Democrat, but as an optimistic American who understands that we must come together behind the one man who can lead the way forward in these challenging times: my president, our president, Barack Obama. And if you see the president before I do, give him a hug for Charlie.