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SPR exclusive bulletin: Crist to run for Florida Senate as an independent

Matt Towery
InsiderAdvantage/Creators Syndicate

April 20, 2010

Copyright 2010 Creators Syndicate/InsiderAdvantage 

It may be the worst-kept secret in American politics today, and it’s apparently about to become a reality. Reliable sources informed me today that embattled Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, whose early lead in his US Senate Republican primary race against former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio has essentially reversed itself in the polls, is preparing to announce sooner rather than later that he will leave the GOP and continue his run for Senate as an independent. Sources add that the speech Crist will use in his announcement is now being drafted.  

Of course Crist is known from time to time for running political misdirections that surprise even political experts at the last minute. But the tea leaves Crist has left trailing behind him in recent weeks – particularly his about-face in vetoing an education reform bill dear to Florida Republicans – certainly seem to portend an abandonment of the party. Throw in, too, that he has recently been losing support from national and Florida GOP honchos – such as Mitt Romney and Crist’s now ex-campaign chair, former US Sen. Connie Mack, among other various Florida Republican luminaries. 

The only thing that likely would stop a Crist independent run now is for the pressure from disillusioned Republicans and longtime Crist supporters to put so much pressure on him not to run at all that he relents. That pressure is mounting almost by the hour. Or that pressure could only speed up his party switch.

Plus, Crist has mostly positioned himself as a moderate, and is largely perceived that way by Florida voters. Thus he likely sees an independent candidacy as his best and only hope of winning the Senate race. The most recent polls of a three-way general election race among Crist, Republican Rubio and presumed Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek show that Crist is at least even with Rubio, and ahead of Meek.   

It’s unclear the effect an independent run by Crist would have on other Republican candidates in Florida this year, particularly with the added ingredient of the loose network of activists and candidates known in media as Tea Partiers. But if Crist follows through with what my sources tell me is a done deal, things will go one of two ways: It’s possible voters from the conservative wing of the GOP will overwhelm the polls in November and lift candidates such as Rubio in major elections both in Florida and across the nation. It’s also possible that liberal, independent and centrist-minded voters may react to the increasingly polarizing political atmosphere in the nation by embracing avowedly moderate candidates like Crist.   

It’s always been puzzling to me why Gov. Crist decided to forego a relatively safe shot at a second term as Florida governor to instead make a go at becoming a part of the minority Republican conference in the US Senate.

 In any event, the April 30 qualifying deadline for a Crist decision is drawing near. Again, based on what my sources are telling me, and in line with much speculation, Charlie Crist will soon become an independent candidate for Senate. Among whatever else that may bring about, it will almost certainly mean – once again – that Florida will provide America with some of the most entertaining politics of the season.


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