[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/08/art.crist0408.gi.jpg caption=" A spokesman for Gov. Crist said Thursday that Crist is 'proud to be a member of the Party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.'"]
Washington (CNN) – Charlie Crist's Senate campaign sought to squash rumors Thursday that he is considering running as an independent and accused GOP opponent Marco Rubio of promoting the idea.
"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," Crist campaign manager Eric Eikenberg said in a statement. "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," Eikenberg added.
Crist, the current Florida governor and one-time frontrunner, is now in a battle for the Republican Senate nomination with Rubio, a former Florida House speaker. A Mason-Dixon poll conducted in March showed that Rubio had an 11-point lead over Crist.
Eikenberg claimed that Rubio's campaign was shopping the story in order to draw attention away from "the Speaker's lengthy legislative record."
"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," Eikenberg said. "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."
Earlier in the day, Rubio's campaign e-mailed around a St. Petersburg Times article about speculation that Crist may be thinking of running as an independent.
And then later in the day, Rubio's campaign responded to Eikenberg's statement accusing Crist of having no one to blame but himself for the rumor.
"Charlie Crist has flip-flopped on so many issues it's hard to keep track: on being a Jeb Bush Republican, promising not to raise taxes, supporting cap and trade, appointing liberal judges and endorsing the stimulus," Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos said in a statement. "Regardless, we look forward to continuing to debate Charlie Crist's record of standing with President Obama and his big government agenda."