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Who's distancing himself from Gov. Charlie Crist today?

- Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who endorses Marco Rubio in the Florida Senate race by pointing out that he "keeps his word" -- unlike, you know, some people.

- Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.), who thinks it's "extremely disappointing" that Crist vetoed an education policy bill.

- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who tersely tells Molly Hooper that he supports Republicans.

This comes after a fortuitously leaked e-mail from the National Republican Senatorial Committee made it clear to donors that the group -- battered by grassroots activists for a year over its early endorsement of Crist -- would dump him like a toxic asset if he jumped parties.

What's remarkable about this is that I no longer see the Republican base demanding that Republicans do these things. It's implied, yes. But it's not like the experience national Democrats had in 2006, when they had to be pulled kicking and screaming away from a commitment to support Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.). Even after Lieberman became an independent, he got support from some Democrats. But I can't think of a single national Republican who will back Crist if he bolts the party.

More than that, I think the window is closing for a GOP figure who wants street cred with the base to come out for Rubio. If he bolts parties, it's expected -- if you can take credit for pushing him out, say hello to an online moneybomb.

(Another difference between this situation and Lieberman's is, of course, the incredible weakness of the candidate Republicans nominated that year -- Alan Schlesinger. There was no chance of a vote split throwing the race to the GOP, whereas Republicans admit that a loss to the Democrats in Florida becomes more likely in a three-way race.)

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By David Weigel  |  April 20, 2010; 3:12 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election  | Tags: Democratic, Eric Cantor, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Marco Rubio, National Republican Senatorial Committee, Republican, Tim Pawlenty  
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