(CNN) – Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is no longer staying on the sidelines in Florida's closely-watched Senate Republican primary.
A Romney adviser confirmed to CNN Friday that he will endorse former House Speaker Marco Rubio over Gov. Charlie Crist, a decision made considerably easier following Crist's veto of an education bill popular among Republican legislators and some conservatives.
The two Republicans will campaign together in the vote-rich Tampa area on Monday and Romney's Free and Strong America PAC will contribute the maximum $5,000 to Rubio's primary campaign.
"Over the past many months, Governor Romney has spoken with both Governor Crist and Marco Rubio," a Romney adviser told CNN. "Both of them asked for his endorsement. While Mitt Romney respects Governor Crist, he believes Marc Rubio's record of conservative, principled and idea-driven leadership is what Florida needs now."
Romney is the latest in a long line of national GOP figures to back Rubio, whose campaign has galvanized conservatives and Tea Party activists around the country frustrated with the Obama administration and government spending.
With a few exceptions, the roster of potential 2012 presidential candidates, Romney included, have largely avoided taking sides in contested Republican primaries.
But as state and national Republicans hammer Crist for his veto, and with the governor now rumored to be weighing an independent bid, the political risk of picking a horse in the GOP primary lessens considerably. According to a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday, Crist trails Rubio by 23 points in the primary.
Romney's endorsement of Rubio also represents a bit of political payback. As the 2008 Florida presidential primary boiled down to a battle between Romney and Sen. John McCain, Crist threw his support at the last minute to McCain.
Romney is the second potential 2012 candidate to wade into the primary; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee endorsed Rubio last year. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has also expressed support for Rubio but has not formally backed his bid.
UPDATE 4:30 p.m.: The Democratic National Committee couldn't resist the chance to take a dig at Romney after the endorsement, accusing him of flip-flopping on the race.
" We all understand that Mitt Romney's endorsement of Rubio at this stage certainly isn't much of a game-changer, but it certainly highlights his propensity to be, what can charitably be called, a mind-changer. Charlie Crist should take heart – you never know when Romney could flip flop again," DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said Friday in a statement.
Romney is such a suck-up! Doesn't he understand that the GOP will never give him the nod as their nominee because he's a Mormon?
Personally, I couldn't care less what religion he practices, but the evangelical "Christian" base of the Republican Party thinks that the Church of Latter-Day Saints is a cult and all of its members are going to hell.
Don't believe me? Do a quick Internet search on "evangelical Mormon" and you'll see ...
So here's RINO Mitt making a hard right turn. Does he really think he's fooling anyone? Well, except maybe the Tea Baggers. Psst, Mitt, the Tea Baggers only represent 11% of the country, hardly a winning move.
Both these guys are tea wing nuts. Rom still can't admit he signed a health care bill while gov of mass. and Rubio can't admit he can't be trusted with a credit card.
What are we, 1st graders? That is what DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan sounds like. No wonder Americans have soured on their opinions of politicians when this is how they behave. Mitt Romney is acting like the only grown up in the room right now and I am sure the DNC are shaking in their boots to think that Obama will have to debate this guy. Acting like a child does not help their cause and will lose them their seats in Congress in November and the White House in 2012.
Which way are the political winds blowing today, Romney? Will it flip again tomorrow?
The same Quinnipiac poll also shows Gov. Crist winning the general if he decides to go independent, and that was before he correctly vetoed the unpopular SB6–a decision that was supported by Floridians from all political affiliations.
Wow, "Mittens" sure is one heck of a courageous politician.
I like a guy who jumps on the band wagon after its gone around the track for a few laps.
I still can't figure out why he tied his dog to the roof of his car when he drove to New Hampshire.
Is this good for Romney? You'd better believe that Mitt thinks it is!
These two idiots go hand and hand.
Birds of a feather flock together...Don't join the flock Gov. Crist. People in Florida will vote for you in November. Rubio doesn't stand a chance....
hey mitt, watch your pockets, marquito is desperate for new and higher volume credit cards, and you already know how he uses them.......and you are endorsing him????????? you both are TOAST, hehehehe
Crist please run as an independent and tell me how can I donate
the teabagger keep talking about higher taxes under obama, who do you thinks is going to pay for the 2 wars? where are the signs??
Guess Mitt just figured out which way the wind was blowing on this one.
Took him long enough though.
Oh wow Romney endorses him.......best reason I've heard to have Charlie Crist run as an independent...........Rubio is a DISASTER
Let's kick the best governor that FL has had and go with a Tea Party nut.
Birds of a feather flock together, i.e. criminals, hypocrits, Romney, Palin, Rubio. It was Rubio along with his puppet master Jeb Bush who pushed the really rotten teacher legislation which Crist had the brains to VETO. The only reason Rubio pushed this bill was because it was a way for him to try to get back at Democrats and Unions (specifically Teacher's Unions) No one, including FL needs another anti thinking, strickly partison, pretty boy like Rubio or Romney.
I'll vote for Crist even though I am a Democrat just to keep the likes of Rubio out of office. And Romney with is crazy religios beliefs will never be anything more than he is now, NOTHING
Mitt Romney has good judgment. He endorsed the successful Republican candidates in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. And now he is supporting Marco Rubio and Nikki Haley (in South Carolina). I agree with Romney!
No more Bush, no more Obama, Romney 2012!
Check out the Ray Sansom scandal… that Rubio is up to his neck in!
Sansom was Rubio’s hand-picked budget chief when Rubio served as Florida House speaker 2007-2008.
Sansom then routed more than $35,000,000 in public funds to a college that later offered him a job. Sansom was indicted and is now awaiting trial.
Rubio? He says Sansom is “one of the best people he ever interacted with in the legislative process.” Looks like Rubio isn't much of a judge of character. Florida’s budget isn’t that large that a friend can run off with $35 million and not be noticed!
Rubio is either corrupt, or stupid – not a good judge of character. Not a good recommendation ... but Mitt loves him! Blind republicans would vote for a bag of cement if it were labeled "conservative"
I wonder who the Florida Cubans are backing on this Election? Governor Crist i guest you lose, maybe you just wasn't crooked or crazy enough for the extreme Right Wing Nuts!
Crist is a casualty of tea party noise and mindless mayhem
Crist leads Rubio – and the dem – if he runs as an independent. The older, white residents of Florida really don't trust Rubio – and don't want another Cuban fascist in political office.
flip flop Romney would not want to antagagnize the tea baggers.
Hey Mitt, lay off the Grecian Formula! You look ridiculous!
Just watched a segment on PBS (sorry CNN) regarding Crist vs
Rubio. The Republicans against Crist seemed more concerned
that their Governor was gracious and cordial to President Obama
than anything else. What a pathetic scenario when people will
turn on a Governor they like for their State, because he is a
gentleman and not a puppet. If you turn on him, like his supposed
"long-time" ally Connie Mack did-good luck! Romney just sold his
soul to the "tea party" and Palin. How sad indeed.
It is amazing how people can forget the crooked things Rubio has done with the GOP's credit cards. Spending for personal items and when caught, claims oversight and quickly pays them back. Would he have ever paid if he hadn't been caught. NO. He was just trying to white wash the black stain he inflected on himself.
And you trust this guy? Just like Nixon, "I am not a crook".
Really Florida, voting for this guy, what are you thinking?