Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, is endorsing upstart Marco Rubio over favorite Charlie Crist in the Republican primary of the Florida Senate race.
DeMint’s choice illustrates the current tension in the Republican Party between the moderate and conservative wings. Gov. Crist is a moderate, while former state House speaker Rubio is a conservative.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee has endorsed Crist. Most Republicans on the national scene maintain that Crist gives the GOP its best chance to retain the seat vacated by the retirement of Mel Martinez.
In response to the NRSC decision, the Red State blog urged readers to stop giving money to the NRSC and established a Facebook page with more than 1,500 supporters voicing that message, according to Politico news service.
DeMint’s decision, reported by Politico, is typical in that he often bucks the Republican establishment.
He started a political action committee, the Senate Conservatives Fund, to help elect Senators who stick to conservative ideas. In addition to Rubio, DeMint has endorsed former Rep. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.
Crist supporters shrugged off DeMint’s move.
“It’s hard to see how this helps Rubio in a broad sense,” an aide to a Senate Republican who supports Crist, told Politico. “When you have all the Senate GOP leaders standing behind Crist, and he has Jim DeMint, it only reinforces the idea that this isn’t a serious primary. He’s only appealing to the far right of the party, and that’s reflected in low poll numbers.”
A Quinnipiac poll released last week showed that 54 percent of primary voters support Crist, compared to 23 percent for Rubio.
For Rubio to win, Gary Reese of Florida Insider writes that he “must fashion a coalition of Latinos who identify with him ethnically and angry conservative Anglos who identify with him ideologically. If he can pull it off, the man will have blazed a path to a place most people no longer imagine -- a bona fide Republican future.”
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