Could Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), who is trailing badly in his Republican primary for Senate, bolt the GOP and run as an independent? The Wall Street Journal reports that some of his supporters and advisers are telling him to do just that.
"If you were to put a gun to my head, I'd say he's running as an independent," said an anonymous GOP strategist who served as an adviser to Crist.
I was advising Crist to switch parties last year. Now? It would be a final act of desperation for a candidate that has completely fallen from grace.
When we first polled this race in January of 2009, Crist had a 65-23 favorability rating. A month ago, Crist was down to a 44-45 favorabilities, an epic collapse.
I've heard rumors from multiple sources that Crist has approached Democrats in Florida asking them how they'd welcome an independent bid. Presumably, he'd promise to caucus with the Democrats. A few months ago, I'd jump at the chance. Now? He's damaged goods and brings little to the table that Kendrick Meek doesn't already bring.
And Rubio isn't looking so strong anymore, opening himself up to major attack in Florida with this:
From as far back as Barry Goldwater in 1964, political candidates have risked backlash in Florida for suggesting changes to Social Security. So it was remarkable to see Marco Rubio in a national TV debate with Gov. Charlie Crist call for raising the retirement age [...]
He agrees with a sweeping entitlement reform plan advanced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would raise the age for full benefits to 70 by 2098, with the gradual climb beginning in 2018. The plan, which has gained notice beyond Washington, also includes changing an indexing formula under which benefits are adjusted. In the debate, Rubio said he's open to rejiggering the cost of living adjustment.
The entire general election campaign will be fought on that single issue, and it won't be pretty for Rubio in retiree-rich Florida. Meek still is unknown to most voters, but he has raised decent money and will be better positioned to take on a weakened, retiree-antagonizing Rubio.
Still, I'd welcome an independent bid by Crist. Having two candidates beating up on Rubio wouldn't necessarily be a terrible thing, and a three-way race with Crist promising to caucus with the Democrats would give us two shots at the seat.
But Crist should've considered this several months ago, when it was painfully obvious that he had no shot against Rubio in today's teabagger-dominated GOP. Abandoning the GOP at that time would've cemented Crist as the frontrunner in the race, perhaps given him a veneer of courage for standing up to the extremists in his party. At this point, quitting the GOP will smack only of desperation.
Then again, Crist is desperate. So in a sea of bad choices, this is probably the best one for him.