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(USA TODAY) -- Florida gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist once explained that he bolted the Republican Party in 2010 because it had become "more strident and more difficult."

Now, he adds, the GOP's reactions to President Obama because of his race was a "big reason" for his party switch.

"I couldn't be consistent with myself and my core beliefs, and stay with a party that was so unfriendly toward the African-American president, I'll just go there," Crist, now a Democrat, said in an interview with Fusion TV. "I was a Republican and I saw the activists and what they were doing, it was intolerable to me."

As an independent, Crist lost the 2010 Senate race to Republican Marco Rubio. His embrace of Obama — literally — at a 2009 event promoting the president's economic stimulus program helped sink his Senate campaign.

Crist eventually endorsed Obama for a second term and spoke on his behalf at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Crist registered as a Democrat late in December 2012, in advance of declaring himself as a candidate for the governor's job he held for one term.

Polls show Crist is locked in a battle with GOP Gov. Rick Scott, the man who succeed him, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Obama campaigns for Crist this fall.

Crist made similar comments about the GOP's attitudes toward Obama being based on race during an appearance earlier this year on The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. In that interview with Stephen Colbert, Crist said he hadn't seen the same "level of vitriol" directed at white presidents, such as John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson or Jimmy Carter.

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