April 16th, 2010
03:00 PM ET
5 years ago

Romney backs Rubio in Florida primary battle

Mitt Romney (right) announced Friday that he is endorsing Marco Rubio for Senate in Florida.
Mitt Romney (right) announced Friday that he is endorsing Marco Rubio for Senate in Florida.

(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.


Filed under: 2010 • Florida • Marco Rubio • Mitt Romney
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Beth

    I always knew there was something very wrong with Romney. This proves it!!

    April 16, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  2. William

    It's pretty clear Romney will say anything to get elected.

    April 16, 2010 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  3. Dale

    So the used care salesman like Rubio. Wooo hooo.

    April 16, 2010 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  4. John

    Crist is a moderate Republican, so it makes sense the GOP wouldn't back him. Unreal.

    April 16, 2010 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  5. steven harnack

    Apparently it doesn't matter that he is an embezzler as long he mouths the proper hate for the Democratic party and refuses to do anything once he gets to the senate.

    April 16, 2010 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  6. will

    Yeah, you won't be smiling when Christ run as a indie.... Ha Ha Ha!!!

    April 16, 2010 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  7. Darth Vadik, CA

    The Republican answer to a conservative disaster is ultra-conservatism, great going Republicans, you know what they say about insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    April 16, 2010 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Nothing like jumping on the bandwagon once the cart ihas stopped!

    April 16, 2010 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  9. SC-Pub "no" more

    Romney's strategy...wait...see who is leading and jump on the bandwagon. What a creepy person.

    April 16, 2010 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  10. RTB

    Ho Hum!

    Mit could care less about the questionable ethics of Rubio.
    Apparently, if the candidate is right wing nothing else matters.

    Crist is the man with a backbone, he has demonstrated that the good people of Florida are his primary concern and will make an honorable Senator that Floridians can be proud of.

    April 16, 2010 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. Marie MD

    LOL!!!!!!! :) :) :) :)
    This is the same romney who said that the shrill from wasilla could be president of the US.
    And the quitter is also behind rubio?
    Kiss of death!!!!! I hope the people of Florida are paying attention as to who is backing this spendaroo candidate. (I made that word up).

    April 16, 2010 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  12. independent

    Romney blows with the wind. Whatever it takes.

    April 16, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  13. TonyInLargo

    I guess Romney wants the nation to believe that he is a good predictor of political races. With Rubio holding double digit leads against Charlie Crist, his backing Rubio reminds me of the man who was asked the dogs gender. The man, who touted himself as a canine expert, couldn't see the dogs genital area. When the dog passed by him and had his back completely to the man, the expert shouted, "its a male". !!!

    April 16, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  14. beth

    this is so sad. i really believed that mitt was one of the really intelligent and electable republicans. why he would lower himself to this pathetic tea party fringe, i will never understand. come on mitt, you're a brilliant business man and a classy guy, leave these low-lifes to fight for themselves.

    April 16, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  15. shooter

    Never accept any type of endorsement from a LOSER!

    April 16, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. Loser

    This loser did not learn his old lessons in his past: keep his mouth shut and disappear.

    April 16, 2010 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  17. shucks

    They are praying together that Rubio wins. How brotherly.

    April 16, 2010 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. John in Tampa

    Romney go home!

    April 16, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  19. Avg Guy in Red State Kansas

    Romney and Rubio – now THERE'S a pair if ever there were one!

    Mr. Romney has been very critical of Mr. Obama's health care plan, a plan very similar in nature to one he proposed in the past.

    Then, there's Mr. Rubio, a hypocrite with hundred dollar hairdo.

    SURELY the GOP and voters in Florida can do better than these slick and shallow imbeciles!

    April 16, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  20. ed fl

    Crooks of a feather flock together

    April 16, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  21. Sgt. Flagg T. McLiberty, Superpatriot

    And with this endorsement, Romney has sold the last little remaining bit of his soul.

    April 16, 2010 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  22. Neither Democrat nor Republican

    awww, poor wittle demmies. they're just upset that no one wants to endorse their candidate. boohoo.

    April 16, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  23. Liberalism Means Never Having To Be Responsible For Anything And Having Someone Else Pay for Your Mistakes

    I live in Florida. Charllie Crist is toast.

    April 16, 2010 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  24. ENOUGH

    Cowardly move by Romney. Why didn't he endorse when Rubio was behind Crist?

    I hope Crist runs as an independent and throttles Rubio.

    April 16, 2010 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  25. BeverlyNC

    One idiot endorsing another – think we'll be seeing a lot of this going on in the Republican Party. No leadership – all lies – all hate and fear-mongering and they wonder why Americans hate the Republican Party and their dangerous lunatic racist tea baggers.

    April 16, 2010 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
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