Cornyn Backs Off Crist Endorsement

When Sen. John Cornyn, head of the GOP's Senate campaign arm, endorsed Charlie Crist in May, it looked like a relatively safe bet. Turns out, it wasn't, and now Cornyn is backing away from his endorsement as Marco Rubio's star has risen.

The Hill's Aaron Blake reports:

"Selfishly, given the limited resources we have and the national scope of our responsibilities here, I didn't want to have to spend any money in Florida if we didn't have to," Cornyn said. "So Charlie Crist seemed like the ideal candidate. This had nothing to do with Marco Rubio, whom I subsequently met and have a lot of respect for."

Cornyn said he sticks by the endorsement, even as he cast it in its historical light. Democratic National Committee press secretary Hari Sevugan pounces:

"By bailing on his commitment, John Cornyn sent a clear message to would-be Republican candidates and the electorate alike.  The Republican Party is now hostage to a far right extremist faction that will not tolerate moderates or dissent, and you cannot trust them to keep their word."

In May, Rubio wasn't even on the charts in terms of primary polling, and the Republican Party was in shambles; the popular Gov. Charlie Crist, a centrist, was a bright spot in an otherwise barren field of potential star candidates for the party.

So it didn't look too unreasonable when Cornyn went out on a small limb to violate the National Republican Senatorial Committee code of not endorsing primary candidates. He took some heat from a few conservatives who were already enamored of Rubio, as debate raged on the right over pragmatism vs. purity. Since then, the tide has rolled in Rubio's favor (and in the tea partiers'), and the upstart former Florida House speaker has gathered national attention and is now an odds-on favorite to win.

And what's more, Rubio polls ahead of Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Florida, by 18 percentage points.

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