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Diaz-Balarts Mysteriously Pull Support for Crist

U.S. Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart have withdrawn their previous endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist’s campaign for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, Lincoln Diaz-Balart’s office confirmed to the News Service of Florida Tuesday.

The Miami Republicans had endorsed Crist over fellow Cuban-American Marco Rubio, the former House Speaker running an insurgent challenge to Crist for the GOP Senate nod. But Lincoln Diaz-Balart, co-chair of the Florida Congressional Delegation, told the Miami Herald that Crist "left us no alternative and he knows why," a statement his spokesperson reiterated to the News Service on Tuesday without further explanation.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart told the newspaper that the withdrawn endorsement did not have anything to do with Crist’s poll numbers, which have dropped since the fall.

The Republican Party of Florida demurred on commenting, referring questions to the Crist campaign. The campaign sought to downplay the endorsement withdrawal and offered little information on possible causes for the surprising reversal.

“Gov. Crist is enthused by the support he continues to receive across the state for next year’s primary,” Crist campaign spokesman Andrea Saul said in a statement provided to the News Service. “He looks forward to working with the Diaz-Balarts and the entire congressional delegation to better the lives of Floridians as Florida's next U.S. senator.”

National Democrats appeared to also be caught off-guard by the move. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Eric Schultz circulated the initial blog post via E-mail with no additional comment.

“What is going on down there?” Schultz said in the subject of his message to Florida media.

The Diaz-Balarts are not generally seen as hard-line conservatives – Lincoln Diaz-Balart is a former Democrat. But the brothers are staunch in their positions on U.S.-Cuba relations, which Rubio attacked Crist on earlier this week as the governor was scheduled to speak at the U.S.-Cuba Democracy political action committee’s annual luncheon in Coral Gables. Both Diaz-Balarts were at the luncheon at which four candidates for the U.S. Senate, Crist and Rubio and Democrats Maurice Ferre and Kendrick Meek, all spoke.

Rubio’s campaign highlighted comments Crist made in April about being “unsure” about President Barack Obama’s decision to allow family members to travel back to Cuba to argue he was “wobbly uncertainty on President Obama's Cuba policy.”

Crist and Rubio, however, were generally in agreement on their rhetoric on Cuba policy at the luncheon, both taking a hard line toward the communist nation.

Rep. Mario Diaz Balart didn’t respond to a News Service request for comment.

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