WASHINGTON — Miami Republican Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart have pulled their endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist for the U.S. Senate, dealing his campaign a significant blow in South Florida.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart in a phone interview Tuesday offered few details, just that Crist had "left us no alternative and he knows why.''
A spokeswoman for Crist downplayed the move, saying Crist was "enthused by the support he continues to receive across the state for next year's primary."
"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,'' spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
The move is a setback to the governor's campaign, which has struggled in recent weeks with sliding poll numbers. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said the withdrawal has nothing to do with Crist's recent political performance and said the decision was made weeks ago. But their names were only recently pulled off Crist's Web page.
Lincoln Diaz-Balart said the brothers are unlikely to endorse anyone else in the race -- including former House Speaker Marco Rubio.
The pair doesn't take endorsements lightly -- they backed Bill McCollum in the Senate Republican primary in 2004 despite pressure within the Cuban American community to support the eventual winner, Mel Martinez.
"We take our endorsements seriously, but the governor knows why we withdrew and he left us with no alternative," Lincoln Diaz-Balart said.
The brothers last July enthusiastically threw their support behind Crist, with Mario Diaz-Balart saying Crist is "is exactly the leader that we need and I look forward to supporting and campaigning with him.''
Crist even considered Lincoln Diaz-Balart to fill the outgoing Martinez's Senate seat, but eventually appointed his aide, George LeMieux. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said the fact he didn't get the nod didn't have anything to do with the decision to pull his support.