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Ex-GOP Gov. Crist tells Democrats GOP left him

Former GOP Florida Gov. Charlie Crist accused the Republican presidential ticket of being beholden to the rich in a speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention.

Crist invoked former President Reagan a few times as he outlined his criticisms of Romney and Ryan, and said he identified with the conservative hero, who left the Democratic party to become a Republican. 

"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," Crist said. "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."

Crist earned the enmity of his party when he became an Independent as he ran for the U.S. Senate against Republican nominee and now Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.). He is one of a couple of party-switchers appearing at the conventions. Ex-Rep. Artur Davis — a former Democrat — criticized Obama last week at the GOP convention. 

Republicans suggest Crist's address in Charlotte, N.C., at the Democratic convention is a step toward running for office as a Democrat.

Crist said that 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," he said.

Crist said he doesn't always agree with Obama but can work with the president and appreciates his efforts to shore up the economy. He also recounted how his embrace of Obama in Florida led to sharp criticism from Republicans.

"That hug caused me more grief from my former party than you can ever imagine," he said. "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 5 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."