1. Florida Politics

Charlie Crist talks up Obama at Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists banquet

The election's over, but former Gov. Charlie Crist is still on the stump for President Barack Obama.

Crist dropped in on a gathering of journalists Thursday night and essentially delivered his campaign season talking points, topped with outrage over Florida's election woes.

"I just want you to know from my heart, and my soul, I've looked into the soul of this man, and what I've seen is a man who is deserving of all of our prayers, and all of our support," Crist said at the Griot Drum Awards banquet of the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists.

Crist's 15-minute appearance came in the middle of a panel discussion moderated by Times' media critic Eric Deggans and featuring Tampa Bay TV anchors Josh Thomas of WFLA-Ch. 8, Erica Riggins of Bay News 9, and Reginald Roundtree of WTSP-Ch. 10.

Crist continued his indirect scolding of Gov. Rick Scott for not extending early voting like he did in 2008 as a Republican governor.

"When you make it hard for people to vote, no matter what branch you're in, legislative, administrative, it doesn't matter, that's not fair, and that's not right," he said. "I'm a guy, Reggie (Roundtree) will tell you, who doesn't get angry. I really don't. I'm a pretty easy-going fellow. But, you know, two things bring me close to anger. And it is arrogance and unfairness, and with this issue, we saw the merger of both. And that's just not right and it should not stand, and I know that it won't."

"It's unconscionable to me that somebody would stand in the door of the voting booth of the people of Florida," he said. "That's not where we are, that's not where we should be."

Crist mentioned his 2009 embrace of Obama in Fort Myers and how it might have earned him preferential seating at a White House dinner for governors and their spouses.

"My wife was seated next to the president, and I was seated on the other side of my wife," he said. "And I'm convinced to this day that the reason that happened is becauise I embraced him and his policy at Fort Myers shortly before that happened."

Crist, who left the Republican Party in 2010, said he spoke up in favor of the president during a meeting of governors the next day as Republicans spoke out against the economic stimulus package.

"I couldn't take it anymore. Finally, at the end of it, I stood up -- I used to stay kind of quiet at these things, but sometimes you're called -- and I stood up and I said, 'Mr. President, I want to tell you, you've heard from some of my fellow Republican colleagues tonight, and I respect them, and they have the right to say whatever they want, this is America, after all, but I have to tell you 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."

Crist did not stick around after the 15-minute speech. He said he had an early flight to watch his alma mater, Wake Forest University, play undefeated Notre Dame in a Saturday football game. Crist walked-on the team at Wake Forest.

"Notre Dame is favored by about 25 points, which they probably should be," he said. "But, you know, hope springs eternal, and I'm an optimist, and things can happen."

This reporter attended the banquet as an award nominee.