Al Cardenas, the former Republican state chairman who passed over former protege Marco Rubio to endorse Gov. Charlie Crist for U.S. Senate months ago, now says Crist should keep running as a Republican -- or drop out. "From a value and character standpoint, he should either stay the course as a Republican despite the overwhelming odds or step aside for the good of the party,'' Cardenas said.
Cardenas said if Crist were to run as an independent it could do sweeping, long-term damage to the GOP in Florida. With Democrats ahead by 700,000-plus voters in Florida, Republican candidates are more dependent on independent voters for statewide success. An independent candidate, especially a successful one, could hurt the GOP's outreach to non-partisan voters, as well as to the fast -growing Hispanic electorate.
"This is not just about Charlie Crist,'' he said. "This is about the long-term health of the Republican Party of Florida for years to come."
He said "it wouldn't be right" for Crist to run as an independent. "Charlie has benefitted on many occasions fron the party apparatus, and I just don't think it would be appropriate since his success has depended on the party's support over the years to abandon it."
Cardenas added: "If he were to run as an independent I clearly would not support him...I can't think of one elected or former elected official who would support the governor if he ran as an independent."
Asked if he regrets endorsing Crist at a time when Rubio looked like a longshot, a clearly pained Cardenas said, "I don't want to talk about it."