Charlie Crist can describe Barack Obama in four words: "He's the real deal."
Crist made the remark Thursday in Oldsmar during an awards banquet for the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists. After serving as Republican governor of Florida from 2007 to 2011, this year Crist endorsed Obama in this newspaper editorial and went on to speak at the Democratic National Convention.
Now a registered independent, Crist told banquet attendees, "I've looked into the soul of this man, and what I've seen is a man who is deserving of all our prayers and all of our support."
Here's what else Crist had to say about the president and Florida's role in the 2012 election.
On learning about Obama's 2009 Recovery Act: "As your governor, I can tell you that early in '09, right after the collapse of the fall of '08, [Florida was] looking at a budget with a hole in it you could not believe. ... I said, 'That's like a godsend.'"
On introducing and hugging Obama on stage at a 2009 event in Fort Myers: Cristsaid he later told Obama, "I have caught more grief from my party for simply being decent to the president of the United States of America, and I'm sick of it. It's not right. It's not fair.' ... My mother and father raised me and my three sisters to treat others with respect and to be decent to one another and to do unto others, especially when that other happens to be the president of the United States of America! So what I was seeing from my now-former party confused me and troubled me because it wasn't what America was supposed to be about. It just wasn't what human decency was supposed to be about."
On Obama's responses to the BP oil spill and Hurricane Sandy: (Crist was still a Republican when Obama visited Florida after the 2010 BP disaster. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is also a Republican.) "No matter where you're from, what you look like or what letter is behind your name, he does the right thing because it's the right thing to do."
On Obama winning Florida in 2012: "I'm proud Florida voted for the president. I am not proud that it took Florida as long as it did to get the results. As it wasn't our fellow Floridians' fault. People who have policymaking authority in our state, I believe, created this problem. ... They made it more difficult to vote."
On Florida's long voting lines: "I'm a pretty easygoing fellow. But two things bring me close to anger, and it is arrogance and unfairness. And with this issue, we saw the merger of both. That's just not right, and it should not stand, and I know that it won't. We'll get this right. I'm so proud of our fellow Floridians for their determination."