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GOP Senate leader endorses Crist

From NBC's Domenico Montanaro and Harry Enten
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in his 2010 Senate bid over the more conservative Marco Rubio.

"I am pleased to endorse Governor Charlie Crist and provide my full support for his candidacy for the United States Senate," McConnell said in a statement. "Charlie Crist has been a tireless advocate for the citizens of Florida by fighting to lower taxes, reduce government spending and enhance the quality of life for all Floridians. Decisions are being made every day in Washington that have a direct impact upon the lives of all Americans and we need Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate to ensure that those decisions will benefit the citizens of Florida."

Crist, for his part, responded again on Twitter: "I would like to thank U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for his endorsement" (12:06 pm.)

Crist also today lined up the endorsement of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which recruited him for the seat.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has yet to weigh in, though he has previously said he would consider withholding RNC funds for candidates who supported the president's stimulus plan. Crist gave the administration cover when he endorsed the plan, and Obama traveled to Florida for an event to promote the plan there.

*** UPDATE ***  Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference also endorsed Crist: "The thought of Governor Crist becoming Senator Crist is welcome news. Three years into his first term as Governor, he's the most popular elected official in Florida's history because of his outstanding career as a no-nonsense attorney general, a progressive education commissioner, and a fiscally conservative chief executive who last year led Florida to its largest property-tax decrease ever. The U.S. Senate needs Charlie Crist, and I'll do all I can to help him get there."