Fourteen minutes after Gov. Charlie Crist announced his U.S. Senate bid, the national Republican party endorsed him over former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio.
The rare and speedy intervention Tuesday by the National Republican Senatorial Committee in a contested primary signaled the party's confidence that Crist will keep the seat in GOP hands. With Democrats poised to clinch a filibuster-proof majority, the Republican political establishment was looking for a name-brand candidate and proven fundraiser.
"While I believe Marco Rubio has a very bright future within the Republican Party, Charlie Crist is the best candidate in 2010 to ensure that we maintain the checks and balances that Floridians deserve in the United States Senate," Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the NRSC, said in a written statement.
But nationwide, there are scattered signs that the GOP is not completely united behind Crist, who campaigned alongside President Barack Obama in Fort Myers for the Democrat's spending plan earlier this year.
"Just what we need, a 'soft, friendly' moderate GOP member. . . BARF," quipped popular conservative talk show host Glenn Beck online.
As Republicans struggle to latch on to a potent line of attack against the popular Democratic administration, the Crist-Rubio primary is widely seen as a proxy for the broader struggle between the party's moderate and conservative wings.
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