Crist: 'Hard to be more conservative than I am'

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist defended his Republican credentials on Monday, insisting it would be "hard to be more conservative than I am on [the] issues."

The governor-turned-Senate hopeful also charged that his opponent in the Republican primary, Marco Rubio, was distorting his record in an attempt to appeal more to the party's right-leaning base.

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"I believe in Reagan's 11th Commandment -- thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican -- but I also think you need to be honest and truthful and make sure that before people go to the ballot box they have a good opportunity to be well-informed," Crist said of Rubio during an interview with the St. Petersburg Times.

"It's hard to be more conservative than I am on issues -- though there are different ways stylistically to communicate that. I'm pro-life, I'm pro-gun, I'm pro-family and I''m anti tax," the governor explained.

"I don't know what else you're supposed to be, except maybe angry too," Crist added, noting a recent poll that showed many of Rubio's supporters also question the president's birthright.
 
In some respects, the early showdown between Crist and Rubio echoes the intensity of the NY-23 congressional race earlier this month. The party's moderates and conservatives are again treating the contest as a bellwether of the national electorate, pitting Republicans against each other.

Already, the Club for Growth (among other groups) has backed Rubio, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has opted for Crist.

Ultimately, that has prompted both candidates to duel fiercely over their conservative track records. Rubio has recently revived Crist's previous support for the federal stimulus as evidence he sides with the Obama administration, while Crist has contended Rubio is fabricating details to stoke frustration.

Nevertheless, Crist on Monday promised to "educate" local voters about his opponent's record. He also drew special attention to the fact that Rubio previously voted for tax increases when he served in the state legislature.

"Campaigns thank God are an educational opportunity," he told the newspaper. "During the course of the next nine months or so we will strive to lay out a very good education."