Fla. Gov. Crist Endorses McCain
Updated 8:34 p.m.
By Juliet Eilperin
ST. PETERSBURG, FL. -- Florida Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential bid tonight, providing the senator with a boost just days before voters head to polls Tuesday.
Crist, a popular moderate Republican who has championed environmental issues and forged bipartisan compromises since taking office a year ago, asked McCain to join him at the podium just before telling several hundred Republicans attending the Pinellas County's Lincoln Day Dinner that while "there are a lot of great people who are running for president," he had decided to back McCain.
"I have to tell you, I don't think anybody would do better than the man who stands next to me," Crist said, as the crowd erupted into applause. "That is an endorsement."
McCain said he was confident Crist's endorsement would translate into votes Tuesday. "It means a lot in this race, let's be very candid," he told reporters.
The move came as a couple of aides from former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's campaign crashed the event, apparently in retaliation for the fact that two of McCain's supporters, former governors Tom Ridge (R-Penn.) and Jane Swift (R-Mass.), rode on the Romney press bus today.
Romney adviser Ben Ginsberg, joined by Carl Forti, mingled with reporters and said they had showed up in order to remind the press that today's dispute between the two candidates over Iraq was not Floridians' top voting priority.
"We wanted to make sure the record was set straight on Senator McCain's sadly flailing attempt to distract attention from the economy, which is the major issue," he said.
Ginsberg declined, however, to comment on Crist's decision to back McCain in Tuesday's primary.
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