Crist Says He Won't Run as an Independent

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Charlie Crist says he will not--repeat, not--run for Senate as an independent in Florida.

Rumors have swirled that Crist, Florida's Republican governor, would withdraw from his primary, which he trails badly to conservative opponent Marco Rubio. But Crist's camp blamed the Rubio campaign this afternoon for fueling speculation that Crist would disaffiliate from the GOP in order to run as an independent in the general election against Rubio and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek.

"To put these rumors to rest once and for all, as we have said countless times before, Governor Crist is running for the United States Senate as a Republican. He will not run as an Independent or as a No Party Affiliation," Campaign Manager Eric Eikenberg said in an official statement posted to the campaign website.

"This should completely and utterly put to rest any of the unfounded rumors coming from the Rubio campaign that Governor Crist would run as anything other than the Republican that he is."

Here's the full statement:

"Speaker Rubio and his campaign have spent this entire race trying to distract voters from learning about his actual record, whether it be his votes for tax increases, support for cap and trade and a carbon tax, his flip flop on immigration reform, or his questionable financial dealings.

"The fact of the matter is, Speaker Rubio double billed taxpayers for flights, charged everything from his family reunion to car repairs to the Republican Party, and used political committees as his personal slush fund - so it should come as no surprise that he and his campaign will try whatever methods possible to change the subject as voters begin scrutinizing his record.

"Instead of being open and honest with voters and owning up to the thousands of dollars that remain unaccounted for from his political committees and releasing his tax returns, the Rubio campaign would prefer to spread baseless rumors.

"To put these rumors to rest once and for all, as we have said countless times before, Governor Crist is running for the United States Senate as a Republican. He will not run as an Independent or as a No Party Affiliation.

"The Governor is proud of his conservative credentials and stands firmly behind the principles of limited government and more personal freedom, the bedrock values of the Republican Party. He is proud to be a member of the Party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

"This should completely and utterly put to rest any of the unfounded rumors coming from the Rubio campaign that Governor Crist would run as anything other than the Republican that he is."

None of this is to say that an independent bid would be unwise. Crist trails Rubio in the GOP primary by an average of 29 percentage points, according to major polls; he faces an energized conservative base that has supported Rubio in Florida and a national conservative movement that has adopted Rubio as its darling. Crist, a centrist, might appeal better to the general electorate than to Republican primary voters.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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