Despite growing speculation that Charlie Crist will drop out of his Senate race or run as an independent, the Florida governor vowed to continue campaigning as the GOP candidate until Election Day.
Crist — who trails former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio by more than 30 points among likely Republican voters in one recent poll — told Fox News Channel’s Martha MacCallum Friday morning that he absolutely is sticking with the Republican Party and won’t run as an independent.
Editor's Note: Watch Video of Crist below.
A year ago, Crist was comfortably ahead of Rubio in the polls, with one February 2009 survey showing him with 53 percent of the votes to Rubio’s 18 percent.
Crist dismissed the recent poll numbers, saying: “It’s very early. We’ve got about five months left . . . Nobody’s talked about [Rubio’s] record and we’re just starting to do that. It’s important for people to remember what both of our records are before they vote.
“Polls are going to go back and forth all the time for the next five months. The only poll that actually matters is the one on Election Day.”
Crist defended his support for President Obama’s stimulus package, saying it saved the jobs of 87,000 Floridians, including 20,000 teachers. He noted every Republican governor in the nation took the stimulus money.
MacCallum asked: “Would Charlie Crist ever consider running as an independent?”
“I will not,” he responded. “Why would I do that? I’m proud to be a Republican. I’m going to win this Republican primary and the truth will be told.”
Crist emphasized that he signed the largest tax cut in the state’s history. In a recent interview with Newsmax.TV, he said he was baffled by charges that he is not a strong conservative.
“I’m an anti-tax, pro-life, pro-gun Republican,” he said. “I’ve always thought it was important to put people first, to make sure they have the opportunity to make their own decisions about their lives without the government intruding. If that’s not conservative, I don’t know what is.”
Flashback: “Crist: I’m a True Blue Reagan Conservative”
Crist told Fox he welcomes the Tea Party movement even if many of its members are backing Rubio for the moment.
“I think it’s good to have people involved,” he said. “I think it’s good to have people active. Whatever group it is, it doesn’t really matter. People need to be active in democracy in order for it to work. So I applaud their efforts. I think it’s wonderful to have more people active in democracy rather than less.”
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