Hounded by conservative activists as too liberal, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is being advised by some close supporters to abandon his lagging Republican primary bid for a U.S. Senate seat and run instead as an independent.
Mr. Crist’s campaign issued a statement last week saying the governor would run in the Republican primary and describing the talk of an independent bid as “baseless rumors.”
Still, some advisers see room for him to take another course. Mr. Crist is trailing badly in public-opinion surveys against state House Speaker Marco Rubio, who has become a darling of conservative activists nationally. …
One longtime adviser to the governor said vetoing the education bill—which would eliminate the possibility of tenure for new teachers and create a new pay scale linked to student performance—would allow Mr. Crist essentially to kick off an independent candidacy with a bang. Rejecting the measure could draw support from one of the state’s most potent Democratic Party interest groups, Florida’s 140,000-member teachers union, which opposes the legislation.
For a candidate who’s insisting that he’s going to stay a Republican, his advisers seem intent on floating that independent bid. Looking at the polls for the primary, it comes as no surprise. Marco Rubio’s clobbering Crist in every poll, and their informal head-to-head debate only made matters worse for the incumbent governor. Unfortunately for Crist, running as an independent doesn’t help much, either. Rubio beats both Crist and presumed Democratic nominee Kendrick Meeks by 20 points in a three-way race.
The Wall Street Journal paints this as the conservative wing of the party against the mainstream GOP, but the polls show that the mainstream GOP has aligned itself with Rubio, too. One doesn’t get a 57%/28% lead in a primary by being out of the mainstream of a party. The 28% showing by Crist makes it pretty clear who’s wound up in the fringe.
As for getting an endorsement from the teacher’s union, that might be true in the Republican primary if Crist sticks around. If Crist expects the union to support him against Kendrick Meeks, he’s delusional.
If Crist leaps — and I’d give it even odds at this point — his political career would be over, especially after a humiliating defeat in the general election. It would also mean that the NRSC would wind up with even more egg on its face over its endorsement of Crist than ever before. Perhaps that will serve as a lesson to national party committees to stay out of contested primaries in the future.