Mitt Romney (left) endorses Marco Rubio (right) for the U.S. Senate earlier this year.
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist
Tampa, Florida -- Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is endorsing GOP U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio, who has a commanding lead over Florida Governor Charlie Crist in the polls.
Rubio's lead, Crist's veto of the Senate Bill 6 and the fact the governor pulled all his TV advertising Monday, adds fuel to speculation Crist will run as a third party candidate.
Sources close to the governor say he will retain his Republican registration, but run as a no party affiliate candidate.
While endorsing Rubio in Tampa at a packed rally, Romney called on Crist to either stay in the race as a Republican or drop out and back Rubio.
In a one-on-one interview after the speech, Romney said the only thing a third party run will do is help Democrat Kendrick Meek.
Romney, who has appeared to move to the right since his Presidential run in 2008, says Rubio is the kind of conservative candidate the Republicans need in the Senate. He says the country has to decide whether it wants a smaller government or whether the government should get larger and run people's lives.
While Romney wouldn't commit if he would have accepted the stimulus money that some criticize Crist for accepting, the former governor says he would not have endorsed the stimulus plan.
Romney also refused to criticize Crist for embracing the President when he came to Florida, but he says Crist is embracing some of Obama's ideas and that is wrong.
As far as his own political future and the notion floated by Sarah Palin that she would like to be his V.P. candidate in 2012, Romney said he is focusing on the 2010 elections and won't look ahead for now.
Mike Deeson, 10 Connects