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Ex-Florida governor Crist moves closer to unveiling bid for old job

Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who campaigned for U.S. President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, speaks t
Former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who campaigned for U.S. President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, speaks t

By Bill Cotterell

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida (Reuters) - Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-Democrat, launched a campaign-style video and website on Friday that threw open the door to a likely run for his old job in 2014.

In the video posted on YouTube and the website (www.charliecrist.com), Crist highlights his past as governor, calling the period from 2007-2011 a time when "the people were in charge."

Criticizing the current powers that be, he also asks Floridians to tell him how he can get the fourth most populous state in the country heading back in the right direction.

"The past few years have been tough: Government on the fringes, donors and politics above the people," the perma-tanned Crist, speaking against the backdrop of a palm-fringed beach, says in the video.

With Republicans now controlling every state house across the South, a Democratic gubernatorial win in Florida - the first in two decades - could significantly alter the political landscape in the run-up to the 2016 presidential race.

Crist's video does not mention Republican Governor Rick Scott, a divisive figure who Democratic Party officials have frequently criticized for his hardline stance on issues including healthcare reform, education and voting rights. But Crist, who abandoned the Republican Party after losing a U.S. Senate primary to Marco Rubio in 2010, mocks Scott's often repeated slogan "It's Working."

"You've seen the attacks against full-time working people and their healthcare, against women and their doctors, against teachers, public schools and college affordability, and even against the simple act of casting your vote," Crist says.

"It's not working. Only you, the people, can end this nonsense and get us back to common sense."

Crist stopped short of openly announcing that he will run for election against the incumbent Scott next year. But he told Reuters, in an interview Thursday on the eve of a Democratic Party conference at a Walt Disney World resort in the Orlando suburb of Lake Buena Vista, a formal announcement could come soon.

"I think it's getting more and more likely," he said. "I've received some very kind encouragement from some very good people around the state. I'm starting to get the impression that we might be able to do this."

He did not elaborate but was met with open arms by many of the 1,300 party delegates at the Democratic conference on Friday. "I feel at home," the ex-governor said, after meeting behind closed doors with party leaders.

In June, a Quinnipiac poll measuring a potential Scott-Crist match-up gave the newly minted Democrat a commanding lead over Scott, a wealthy former healthcare executive.

The Republican Party of Florida has kept up a daily drumbeat of Internet and media attacks on Crist, calling him untrustworthy and citing his change from conservative Republican to moderate Democrat.

(Editing by Tom Brown, Bob Burgdorfer and Lisa Shumaker)

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