Florida Governor Charlie Crist yesterday did what was widely expected, bolting the Republican Party to run for U.S. Senate in Florida as an independent. Crist summed up his new independence, from MSNBC:
“I haven’t supported an idea because it’s a Republican idea or a Democratic idea. I support ideas because I think they’re good ideas for the people,” he said.
It is hard to remember a single photo that has done as much damage to an individual politically as the photo of Governor Crist and President Obama. The Governor was accepting federal stimulus money, and his embrace of the money and the President enraged the conservative base of the Republican Party. Crist had a twenty point lead over former Florida Speaker of the House Marco Rubio, but that has now turned into a twenty point deficit to Rubio. With Rubio poised to knock him out of the race in the primary the Governor took the only road open to him if he wants the Senate seat. But there is a cost. Crist lost his entire top echelon campaign staff. From Cillizza over at “The Fix”.
n the immediate aftermath of Crist’s announcement, his entire campaign team — manager Eric Eikenberg, media consultants Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens, pollster Public Opinion Strategies, communications director Andrea Saul and press secretary Amanda Hennenberg all resigned. “It has been an honor to work for Governor Crist, and I wish him all of the best,” said Saul.
Crist was widely condemned by the titans of the Republican Party.
State and national Republican leaders clamored to condemn Crist’s decision.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said that Crist had “left his party”. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the party’s nod in 2012, described the move as “deeply disappointing.” Florida state Attorney General Bill McCollum, the party’s likely gubernatorial nominee derided the Crist independent bid as a “short-sighted maneuver”.
National Republicans organizations as well as many rank and file Republicans, have started to demand their contributions back from the Governor. His fundraising ability is likely to be hampered, but not broken, as he moves forward.
Democrats see hope for their candidate, Kendrick Meek, who issued a statement on the changing nature of this race:
The announcement yesterday that Crist is abandoning the Republican Party to run as an independent is a game-changer. Crist and Marco Rubio will now fight over the same pool of Republican voters, giving us a real path to victory.
Quite an upheaval in Florida. Current polling gives Crist a slight edge over a second place Rubio, with Meek running close behind. It will be a tight race with a lot of twists and turns that will make the day of political junkies everywhere.