May I quote? March 28, 2010:

WALLACE: So are you ruling out that you will file as an independent by the April 30th deadline?

CRIST: That’s right. That’s right. I’m running as a Republican.

WALLACE: You will run not for a governor — you’ll run for Senate, and you will run as a — in the Republican primary.

CRIST: Chris, I’m running for the United States Senate. I know that our country needs help. I’m running as a Republican. This man to my left is a friend but I hope to defeat him on August the 24th, and I would encourage every Florida Republican to get out and vote.

WALLACE: Will you support the winner of the GOP primary, whether it’s you or Marco Rubio?

CRIST: Of course I will. Of course I will. But I think before that decision is made, people–

WALLACE: Well, I’m going to get — I’m going to — I’ll give you an opportunity for a final statement. I just want to say, though, you are saying you are going to run in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. You will not run on the no party affiliation line.

CRIST: That’s right. That’s right. That’s what I’m saying.

Nineteen days later, it’s come to this:

A day after vetoing a contentious teacher tenure bill in Tallahassee, Gov. Charlie Crist basked in the warm embrace of Miami-Dade educators and deflected questions about leaving the Republican party.

“I’m not thinking about that today,” Crist told reporters at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School in North Miami. “We’ll look at that later on,” Crist said of running for the U.S. Senate as an independent against Republican Marco Rubio.

Are you considering it? “No, not really,” Crist said.

The hot rumor this morning was that he’d announce he’s switching as early as today, but the optics of doing that so soon after yesterday’s veto convinced him otherwise, I guess. In fact, according to NBC, he’s reportedly considering taking the big A’s advice and dropping out soon with an eye to running again in two years against Bill Nelson. That would be the smart play, as he’d go from party villain to hero overnight by not complicating things for Rubio. 2012 may also be better suited than this year to a centrist Republican since Obama will be at the top of the ticket and Democratic turnout will be vastly higher. If he makes nice with the base now by supporting Rubio, he’ll win some goodwill and position himself as the presumptive nominee next time. Unless, of course, there’s another Rubio lurking somewhere down there…

In other Florida news, just a single day after Crist’s campaign totally imploded, Romney’s finally hopped aboard the Marco express. (Hucakbee endorsed Rubio last year.) Team Romney is spinning the timing as aimed at doing the most possible damage to Crist, but does anyone believe that? Mitt’s endorsement isn’t going to be some game-changer; as John Miller says, this smells like a bandwagon move made only after there was no longer any political risk to endorsing Rubio. Which, incidentally, isn’t the first time Romney held off on backing a conservative darling who didn’t (yet) have the blessing of the party’s establishment. Way to take a stand, Mitt.