Opinion: Florida’s Crist to run as independent? Hold on to your sun hats! (Updated)


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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is headed to his hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla., for Thursday’s big announcement about his political future, his parents and his wife at his side for the 5 p.m. event.

‘It’s home. It’s where my family is, so I think it’s appropriate,’ Crist told reporters Wednesday morning.


(UPDATE: 12:38 p.m.: Our sister publication the Orlando Sentinel reports now that Crist has decided to launch an independent bid for the Senate seat, claiming he wants to serve ‘the people’ more than the party.)

Crist -- down 20 points against ‘tea party’ favorite Marco Rubio in the latest polling on the Republican primary for U.S. Senate -- has been hurt by his support for President Obama‘s $787-billion bailout of Wall Street. Reading the political tea leaves, pundits are saying he will run as an independent. More popular in the state than he is with the GOP base, this could make for a very interesting election.

If he does leave the Republican Party and run as an independent, Crist would set up a....

...three-way race between himself, Rubio and (likely Democratic nominee) Miami Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek. As the St. Petersburg Times noted, ‘That means Florida’s next senator could be elected Nov. 2 with as little as 34% of the vote, upending the usual quest for mass appeal in an increasingly diverse state of 11 million voters.’

Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown added: ‘In a tight, three-way race, there’s a bigger premium on making sure you are targeting your supporters and getting them to polls, as opposed to persuading voters.’

But Crist is a quirky guy, known to change his mind at the last minute. He famously gravitated to Rudy Giuliani‘s camp during the 2008 presidential primary season before throwing his support to John McCain. (Giuliani recently paid him back by endorsing Rubio). You can read a juicy treatment of the Crist-Rubio fallout in the Halperin-Hellemann book ‘Game Change.’


Anyway, all the governor is saying at the moment: ‘I’d like everybody’s’ support regardless of what happens.’

-- Johanna Neuman

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