[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/14/art.crist.deintgi.jpg caption="Sen. Jim DeMint said Wednesday during a conference call that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist should end his Senate bid and endorse rival Marco Rubio."]Washington (CNN) - Sen. Jim DeMint said Wednesday that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist should abandon his Senate bid and endorse his Republican primary rival.
DeMint was asked about chatter that Crist, trailing badly against Marco Rubio in the primary, might decide to run as an independent instead. "I hope that won't happen," he responded.
"That is a sour grapes approach - when you find out you can't win, you bail out just like Arlen Specter did in his [Pennsylvania Republican] primary against Pat Toomey," DeMint said of a possible independent bid by Crist. "I hope that doesn't happen in Florida."
DeMint made his remarks about Crist during a conference call organized to tout his endorsement of Colorado Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck.
The South Carolina senator threw his support to Rubio last summer, before conservative activists rallied around the former state House speaker and catapulted him from a long-shot candidate to the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. DeMint has since been one of Rubio's most prominent backers.
Though Crist and his aides have pledged repeatedly that the governor will remain a Republican candidate, his campaign in recent days has avoided questions about a possible independent bid, sparking a new round of speculation and gossip. Crist has until April 30, the filing deadline, to remain in the GOP primary.
"I think there is magnanimous way for Marco's opponent to step out and support him," DeMint said of Crist.