Crist, the one-time frontrunner to win the seat in November, is now trailing Republican primary opponent Marco Rubio by more than 20 points. Multiple sources tell CNN that Crist will announce Thursday afternoon that he will leave the GOP primary and run as a nonaligned candidate.
Related: Crist to run for Senate as nonaligned candidate, source says
Steele said in an interview on "The Situation Room" that he doesn't want the governor to leave the Republican Party, but noted the RNC is committed to doing what needs to be done to keep the seat in GOP hands.
"That's a real possibility," Steele said of the chance Crist could win in a three-way race. "It's a dynamic that's unfortunate in my view. I think that the voters out there should be given a chance to have a clean call between the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee, Congressman [Kendrick] Meek. We're looking forward to helping carry the Republican nominee across the finish line. What the governor – I would not want the governor to leave the party but that's his decision to make."
On the issue of illegal immigration, the RNC chairman said he agreed with Republican strategist Karl Rove, who recently expressed concern that the Arizona law could alienate Latino voters from the GOP.
"We need as a party to be mindful that our prior actions in this area and certainly our prior rhetoric in this area has not been the most welcoming and the most supportive of helping those who want to assimilate into the way of life of America," Steele said.
But the chairman made a point not to criticize Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a fellow Republican, who last week signed a new law that gives police officers expanded powers to check people's immigration status. Supporters argue that it is needed, while opponents claim it will lead to civil rights violations.
"The governor of Arizona acted in the best interests of the people of Arizona," said Steele.
He also emphasized in the interview that the issue of immigration needs to be depoliticized.
"The realities right now for the country – as reflected in Arizona and elsewhere – is that we as a people have to come to grips with this issue of immigration," Steele said. "We can no longer use it as a political football. We must keep in mind the families that are impacted by it, the lack of decision in this area. And the leadership has to confront what has always been a growing chorus of concern from the American people is – let's deal with border security and control. Let's put that house in order and then rest then takes care of itself."
please crist when you win be a true independent unlike the others that became gop shills.....vote with conviction at all times....donations on the way....
Um, Michael, as a truly independent registered voter in the state of Florida (my card reads "no party affiliation"), I think I should be given the chance to vote for the candidate I feel is most qualified, regardless of party affiliation.
No wonder the GOP faithful don't like Steele. He is telling the truth.
I think Charlie Crist should run – if anything, to give courage to other moderate Republicans who are getting tired of being betrayed by their party because they won't follow in lockstep with all of the GOP's radical, extremist policies.
The Arizona law could alienate latino voters from the GOP? Who's he kidding? Latin voters will abandon the racist GOP in droves. They may not like the Democrats but they will dislike the Republicans.
What Michael Steele said about Karl Rove makes me respect Mr. Rove more than I have in the past.
I hope Crist wins.
Rubio has proven to be a phony.
He is nothing but a Jeb Bush and Romney puppet.
LMAO! Oh..so "his career as a politician is over", and "he is done!" lines are big lies Fox told his viewers to repeat? HAHAHA!
Check Mate Crist!
I'm a bit more liberal than you perhaps, but what you are ready to do deserves: RESPECT!
Since Crist is an Obamist CNN will be working day and night to get him elected. Just as they did for Obama.
Mr. Steele, them what sleeps with dogs, wakes up with fleas.
The Republican Party has been pandering to these right-wing crazies for way too many years. Now they have taken over our party.
I hope Crist runs and whips the Democrat and the Republican. He has done a great job as governor of an almost ungovernable state, and that obviously means nothing to idiots like DeMint, Palin, and Romney.
Hey, I'm sending this guy a nice check even though I don't live in Florida. He has earned the right to the Republican nomination and you people are too arrogant to see that.
So long Mario...
Who are you going to believe on all these issues, the Party of No, or the Democratic party of RESULTS? Its pretty much that simple.
Repuglican "hindsight" is 20/20 as usual! Steele and even the "brain" Karl Rove are finally using half their brain, which is better than the rest of the repuglican party neocon extremist! Now, all of sudden repuglicans are concerned about the Hispanic vote, well, they are a "da" late and a "dollar" short this time! The damage has been done and Hispanic everywhere have heard a "rallying" cry "remember Arizona!" Which will lead them to inflict defeat on the repuglican army this November! What, I will enjoy is repuglican, from now until November slowly coming out of their conservative, bigot, extremist, and ideologue closet in repentance showing a hypocritical face of aborration of what has befalled the hispanic community!
This is the absolutely racial profiling. If the southern borders have this law. It is only fair that the northern borders have this law. Gee, how can you tell what a Canadian versus an American look life? Come on Gov Brewer, you know this is a horrible law and it is racist. I agree to boycott the state of Arizona 100%. Yes, something has to be done, but we are all human beings, but it is unfortunate that there are people that are killing others and into drugs. My point is racial profiling and racism in general. This entire situation is sickening.
GOP appears to be in real disarray these days. Nothing coherant, nothing positive, unless you listen to FOX news of course!
if crist goes indie, he gets my floridian vote. otherwise, who was the democrat in that race again? jeez kendrick, you sat this one out huh?
"...I think that the voters out there should be given a chance to have a clean call between the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee..."
Why? The only reason yo don't want Crist to run as an independent is because he might win, and you don't want to lose the seat. You don't care one whit for a 'clean call' between the two parties, and we know it.
The GOP has always supported having an independent run - if it helps the GOP...
We can only hope that both Crist and Rubio (the tea party candidate) will both lose big once the retirees wake up from their nap. This country does not deserve the obstructionist, hate filled, no ideas of Rubio the wrong. Talking points do not solve the problems of our great country.
Really? The Arizona Immigration Law "could" alienate Latino voters? Who would have thought it? Certainly not the Governor of Arizona...who I'd suspect will be a one-termer.
The reason he can win is because most poeple are not uber-conservatives and will still vote theri conscience and not party.
As for the immigration issue, Republicans lost the battle- Arizona's stance has just given the Democrats about 4 million new supporters- thank you.
Just have Obama show up and campaign for the Democratic nominee,...that will ensure the GOP holds the senate seat!
Gp Crist! I'm with you and so will all the other moderates - Republicans, Democrats, and Independents!.
Yeah, how dare he challenge the two-party system! What does he think this country is, a democracy?!
"It's a dynamic that's unfortunate in my view. I think that the voters out there should be given a chance to have a clean call between the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee...". How about the voters out there should be given a chance to vote for who they think the best candidate is, regardless of party (or non-party) affiliation? The two party system is outdated and has been hijacked by career politicians. Time for a change!
The GOP is too busy thinking all Latinos are illegal immigrants, and thus incapable of voting, to consider them as a lost demographic.
What kind of logic is it to say that Crist might win a three way race but Steele regrets that "dynamic"? That the voters should not have the choice of an independent who might be more popular than the GOP candidate in the general election? Steele is just being honest, but ... what a moron.