(CNN) – Florida Gov. Charlie Crist said Friday he "misspoke" when he told a television interviewer that he would have voted for President Obama's health care reform package.
Crist, engaged in a three-way Senate race against Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek, had previously said he would have voted against the bill were he in Washington at the time.
In an interview Friday with Orlando TV station Central Florida News 13, Crist was asked: "Health care bill, how would you have voted on that?"
Crist responded, "I would have voted for it but I think it can be done better. I really do."
The remark was highlighted by Rubio advisers eager to paint the governor as flip-flopping opportunist. They called it the governor's "fifth position on ObamaCare."
A spokesman for Crist, Danny Kanner, quickly sent along a statement from Crist clarifying his comments.
"Apparently, based on an interview this afternoon, there may be some confusion regarding my position on health care," Crist said. "If I misspoke, I want to be abundantly clear: the health care bill was too big, too expensive, and expanded the role of government far too much. Had I been in the United States Senate at the time, I would have voted against the bill because of unacceptable provisions like the cuts to the Medicare Advantage program.
"But being an independent, I have the freedom to be an honest broker for the people of Florida without regard for political party, and the reality is this: despite its serious flaws, the health care bill does have some positive aspects."
The positive aspects, according to Crist: protecting people with pre-existing conditions, closing the prescription drug donut hole for seniors, and letting parents keep their children on their insurance coverage until the age of 26.
"This debate must not be about political posturing; it must be about protecting the people of Florida and America, and I intend to do that hard work when I get to the United States Senate."
Since capturing the Democratic nomination on Tuesday, Meek has also been taking aim at Crist's shifting positions, hoping to peel off Democratic voters who have been in Crist's camp since he decided to run as an independent in April.
Meek's campaign is distributing old Crist press releases, verbatim, from his time battling Rubio for the GOP nomination.
On Friday, the Meek campaign sent reporters Crist's statement from the day the health care bill passed in March. In it, Crist blasted the legislation, calling it "a direct affront to the American people."