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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mitt Romney to Charlie Crist: Run as a Republican, or drop out



Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney just offered his endorsement of Republican U.S. candidate Marco Rubio in front of an overflow crowd of more than 250 at a Tampa convention hall. The endorsement wasn’t a surprise (it was announced over the weekend).

But Romney did have some blunt advice for Rubio’s opponent, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist:

Run as a Republican, or drop out.

If not, the Democrats might just win.

“It sure would be an enormous mistake to do something that would make it easier for Congressman Meek to be the next senator from Florida,” Romney said in announcing his support for Rubio. Meek is the likely Democratic nominee.

Romney said he “respected” Crist and understood he “faces some difficult decisions in the coming days,” a clear reference to Crist’s flirtation with bypassing the GOP primary and running as a No Party Affiliation candidate.

But he said it would be unwise to abandon the party that supported him when he ran for governor, and Crist helped build in Florida.

Romney, a possible 2012 presidential contender, previously had said he planned to stay out of the Florida Senate primary. But with Rubio leading in polls by 20 points or more, Romney’s entrance is unlikely to ruffle feathers.

He joined the stage Monday at a noon rally with Rubio, Florida’s former House speaker, and former state Senate president Tom Lee.

After the event, Rubio declined to address Romney’s comments, saying he wasn’t sure if a three-way race would be more difficult than a two-way one. “Haven’t thought about it,” Rubio said.

Aaron Sharockman, Times staff writer


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:29am]


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