Crist: Race was a reason GOP panned Obama hug (VIDEO)

Former Florida governor Charlie Crist (D) said on Tuesday that Republicans rejected his 2009 hug with President Obama in part because the president is African American.

Crist cited three reasons the hug was so devastating to his standing in the Republican Party: The fact that Obama was in Florida to talk about his stimulus plan, the president's Democratic Party affiliation and his race.

"Sadly, I think another part of it was that he was a Democrat. But not just a Democrat, an African American," Crist said on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."

Host Stephen Colbert responded, "You're not going to play the race card."

To which Crist replied: "I'm not going to play it, no." He added, "I'm just trying to tell the truth. I have seen a level of vitriol directed at this president that I have never seen directed at, you know, at President Kennedy or maybe President Johnson, or even President Carter."

Crist is running for governor this year as a Democrat. He officially joined the party shortly after the 2012 election. Crist campaigned for Obama as an independent in 2012 and has signed on many veterans of the president's reelection team to his campaign for governor.

Crist's 2009 hug with Obama negatively affected his campaign for Senate in 2010. Once a heavy favorite to win, Crist's standing in his party fell dramatically as conservatives rallied around now-Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in the primary. Crist's hug with Obama came to symbolize the argument conservatives were forwarding: That he was too moderate.

Crist writes in his book that the moment ended his career as "a viable Republican politician." He told Colbert he never felt quite at home as a Republican.

"I always kind of felt like a round peg in a square hole in the Republican Party," he said.

Crist is trying to unseat Gov. Rick Scott (R), one of the most vulnerable governors facing reelection this year. Recent polling has shown Crist with a slight lead.

VIDEO: Charlie Crist tells PostTV why voters should trust him

In Play talks to party switcher and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist who hopes that his reputation as a consensus builder and non-ideologue will help him win votes in his first race since becoming a Democrat. (The Washington Post)
Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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Juliet Eilperin · February 12, 2014

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