Endgame: Jeb Bush slams Crist, Connie Mack resigns as campaign chairman

Rarely will we devote three posts in a day to a single state race but there’s a campaign imploding in real time here. First Jeb administers the kiss of death:

I am disappointed by the veto of Senate Bill 6. By taking this action, Governor Crist has jeopardized the ability of Florida to build on the progress of the last decade, which includes raising student achievement across the board, narrowing the achievement gap for poor and minority students, and improving graduation rates. Florida’s sustained improvement is the result of bold reforms that were challenging, controversial and sometimes even unpopular. Reform is hard work but without a commitment to change, Florida would not be 8th in the nation today.

And then Mack abandons ship:

Gov. Charlie Crist’s political mentor, former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, resigned Thursday as Crist’s campaign chairman in his race for the U.S. Senate…

“As you know, I strongly disagree with your veto,” Mack wrote his fellow Republican. “Your veto I believe undermines our education system in Florida and the principles for which I have always stood.”

Mack went on to say that Crist’s decision to veto the bill was “unsupportable and wrong.”

“As you can understand, I can no longer serve as chairman for your campaign for the United States Senate,” Mack wrote.

I know today’s veto was a big deal but it surely wasn’t so big that Mack would cut ties to his own protege over it in an act of conscience. Either he’s using this as a pretext to head for the lifeboats because the Republican nomination is now officially unwinnable or Crist’s told him privately that he’s running as an independent and Mack refuses to go against the party. Either way, Crist’s days as a Republican Senate candidate are over. Say, John Cornyn — you and the NRSC endorsed Crist almost a year ago, didn’t you? How are you feeling this fine evening?

Cornyn says the governor will face an intense backlash from the Republican establishment if he runs as an independent.

“I would think that would be the end of his political career as a Republican,” Cornyn, chairman of the NRSC, told POLITICO. “So I doubt that will happen. My hope is that this is all resolved in the Republican primary by Florida voters.”

Cornyn said that Crist would be a “man without a party” if he decided to mount a three-way race against Rubio and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek, who is pursuing his party’s nomination in the state.

“And I think he’s got other potential and aspirations, so I think from that standpoint, it would be a bad decision,” Cornyn said.

Exit question: I know Crist is momentarily leading a three-way race, but how does that play in the long run once voters watch him break his vow not to run as an indie? Even if there’s 30 percent willing to vote for him right now, is there a donor base among those people? Rubio’s fundraising is skyrocketing and will soar further once grassroots conservatives get motivated to punish a traitor to the party. How does he possibly sustain this lead, especially with Kendrick Meek starting to assert himself?

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