It’s a testament to the institutional power of the Republican Party that not even the man Charlie Crist appointed to the US Senate, his former chief of staff, would follow him to an independent bid if Crist decided on that option.

But LeMieux now has a choice to make: If Crist bolts the GOP and runs as an independent, LeMieux will have to decide between backing his old friend and angering the very GOP primary voters he’ll need in ’12, or sticking with the party and throwing his pal overboard.

Sources close to LeMieux said they believe he has made his decision, and that he will stick with the party over the person. LeMieux has talked the decision over with his advisors and staff, and they believe LeMieux would endorse ex-FL House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) if Crist makes his switch official.

“He’s made his position pretty clear. He’s been a life-long Republican,” said one source who asked not to be named revealing internal discussions.

The state party bylaws would have forced a rebuke to LeMieux if he didn’t endorse the Republican nominee, and he may want a future in Republican politics, so this is somewhat academic. But this will be the choice that many Floridians face in November, and if LeMieux’ decision is any indication, Crist’s independent run won’t get much traction.

That’s especially true if he cannot even differentiate from Marco Rubio on the issue of corruption:

Gov. Charlie Crist never had a credit card, but he’s not free from the controversy. FBI agents have asked about the Crist campaign, said Republican fundraiser Al Hoffman.

“They had Jim Greer’s travel expense records and wanted me to react to some of the issues surrounding that debacle,” said Hoffman, a former ambassador who helped lead the ouster of Greer and was interviewed by agents last month.

“Definitely they asked about the relationship between the Crist campaign and the party, relative to the co-mingling of funds…I believe they’re after any federal election law violations, tax avoidance issues, and criminal fraud.”

It was no secret Greer was aggressively promoting Crist’s campaign, but it could be a violation of federal election law subject to civil penalties for the state party to pay for a federal candidate’s expenses.

Not to mention the Dick Cheney endorsement for Rubio, which carries with it the spawn of Satan bloc.

My prediction is that the polls on the day Crist becomes an independent will represent his high-water mark in the campaign.