POLITICS
06/29/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Cornyn Warns Crist: You Can Never Come Back To The GOP

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will never be forgiven if he announces, as expected, that he is switching party affiliations and running for the Senate as an Independent, said the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman on Thursday.

"Once you leave the party, you can't come back," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) told the Huffington Post. "And if he has other aspirations, it's hard to see how that works out."

Speaking moments earlier at a breakfast briefing organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Cornyn relayed that he had urged Crist to abandon his plans to bolt the party and, instead, wait until the 2012 election to launch another bid for the Senate -- in this case, taking on incumbent Bill Nelson.

"I know that message has been communicated both by my staff and other people close to the governor," Cornyn said. "I think that is one of his alternatives which, frankly, I would prefer to his switching to an Independent. Either stay in the primary and let the Republican primary voters make their choice, or drop out of the primary, endorse Rubio, and use the next two years to sort of recover... and challenge Senator Nelson."

"Staying in the primary and dropping out and running in 2012 are much more preferable to running as an Independent," Cornyn added, "because I think his future electoral prospects are irreparably damaged by his deciding to run as an Independent."

Those pleas, it appears, have fallen on deaf ears. Crist is widely expected to announce his intentions for an Independent run in this cycle this afternoon -- a move that Cornyn predicts will complete the governor's alienation from a Republican Party he once seemed destined to help lead. "It has been a breathtaking change of circumstance," Cornyn said, "to see him now contemplating this course."

The senator said he will ask Crist to return the $10,000 in donations he had sent him via his leadership political action committee. He anticipated that other big-time GOP donors will ask for refunds as well. And while communication between Crist and the national Republican apparatus seem likely to end with Thursday's expected announcement, according to Cornyn, they have already been frosty for a while.

"I have not spoken directly with him [about his decision]," the senator said. "I have traded phone calls a number of times and quite honestly I've given up. I thought if he really wanted to talk with me, he knew how to get in touch."