According to several sources here in the state of Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist is notifying key supports and financial backers that he will be dropping out of the Republican Primary and running for the U.S. Senate as an Independent. There is an official announcement scheduled for 5 p.m. in Crist’s hometown of St. Petersburg, which will undoubtedly draw lots of national media attention. There have been signs that the Florida Governor was mulling this dramatic political move. For example, Crist has recently backed away from earlier statements that he made declaring that he would run as a Republican, admitting that he was considering an Independent run. Once considered the clear favorite, Crist’s support among the state GOP faithful has been in steady decline for months. Over the last several weeks, Crist has also seen a series of high profile national Republican leaders publically endorsed his primary opponent, the former State Speaker of the House, Marco Rubio.
Crist has alienated state Republican legislators by vetoing two key republican-backed pieces of legislation; one of which involved a sweeping reform to public education and teacher evaluations in Florida. The mostly democratic Florida teachers union began a very vocal, well organized campaign against the legislation, appealing to Crist directly through hundreds of petitions, phone calls, and emails. They also organized parents and students to hold demonstration throughout the state. After a week of consultation with key stakeholders, Crist went against his own state party leadership in vetoing the bill. That move was seen by many as a foreshadowing of things to come. Always seen as a moderate, the Florida Governor was also widely criticized for supporting Obama’s economic stimulus package. After most polls have shown Crist trailing Rubio by double-digits in the Republican Primary, talk began to circulate in Florida about the possibility of Crist running as an Independent.
Another indication that Crist may be leaving the Republican primaries was an announcement on Tuesday by the conservative organization, Club for Growth, which said that it would pressure Gov. Crist to return Republican contributions if he runs as an independent. This is seen by some as ironic, considering the fact that the Republican establishment has already lined up behind Rubio, leaving Crist with few options.
As a Republican Governor who is still in the midst of his term, it will be a challenge to explain to some Floridians how he will also run as an Independent for the U.S. Senate. Florida is a diverse state where primaries are run to the base, while general elections are run to the center of the political spectrum. Crist is counting on that reality to help him win in November. Based on polls that show Crist faring much better in a three-way race with Rubio and Democratic candidate State Representative Kendrick Meek, it seems that for Crist to have any chance of winning, he will need to announce an Independent run. We will find out for sure in St. Petersburg tomorrow at 5pm. Stayed tuned for additional information, and check out this link for more details.
St. Petersburg Times
Tampa Bay Ttribune
Bay News Nine