[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/29/art.jkusa.rm.jpg caption="Sen. Robert Menendez said Thursday the Republican Party is "cannibalizing" its moderates."]Washington (CNN) - The senator responsible for promoting Democrats in senate races nationwide said the Republican Party is "cannibalizing" its moderates.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, reacted to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's decision to abandon the Republican senate primary and launch an independent bid. Menendez is the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
"This is an example of what's happening in the Republican Party across the country where they're cannibalizing each other," Menendez told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King in an interview that aired on CNN's John King, USA.
Crist's decision essentially launched a three-way general election race pitting him against former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio – expected to become the Republican nominee - and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek.
Rubio has moved "so far to the right with the Tea Party element," Menendez said, that Crist isn't able to win the Republican nomination "because he's not … to the right enough."
As for the Democratic congressman's chances in the race, Menendez believes keeping Crist in the matchup will benefit Meek.
"As far as I'm concerned, Kendrick Meek – who hasn't run statewide … is leading a path that is going to move straight down the center - [he'll] be able to get Democrats, Republicans and Independents," Menendez said.