For Cornyn, the calculus was simple math: Crist is a proven statewide vote-getter who can raise money on his own.
Since the endorsement, Cornyn has touted polling showing the better-known Crist with a 53 percent to 18 percent lead and said he would decide “on a case-by-case basis” which Senate primary contests to get involved in.
But Cornyn’s move left conservatives furious over the effort to quash the nascent campaign of Rubio, a young Cuban-American whom they say embodies the GOP’s goal of trying to expand the party’s appeal to minority voters.
A Web site known as “Not One Red Cent” – and connected to popular Republican activists Erick Erickson and John Hawkins – is encouraging conservatives to withhold their money from the NRSC and call for Cornyn’s resignation. Rubio, 37, has become the site’s cause célèbre.
“The leadership of the Republican Party keeps saying we need to get back to our principles and talking about how important it is to attract more young voters and Hispanic Americans. Then, we get a viable, young, conservative, Hispanic candidate running for Senate and they arrogantly try to shove him aside to make way for a better connected, moderate pol who’s more acceptable to the GOP establishment,” Hawkins said in a statement released Thursday.
“This cuts to the core of what’s wrong with today’s Republican Party.”
“They’re certainly entitled to express their opinions on this Senate seat and participate in the democratic process just like anyone else,” said NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh. “But that also includes Sen. Cornyn and the other Senate Republican leaders who have expressed their support for Gov. Crist. They’ve endorsed the governor because he’s not only a proven leader but he’s also the candidate to ensure that this seat stays Republican in a very competitive election cycle. So while it’s healthy to have a debate, at the end of the day it’s even more important for all Republicans to keep their eye on the ultimate goal, which is regaining the majority in the Senate.”