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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mass exodus from Charlie Crist? Not yet



Crist3 Marco Rubio might as well take a couple weeks off and relax.

Because April 30 is the deadline for Charlie Crist to declare if he's running for U.S. Senate as a Republican or independent or at all. Until Crist makes his intention clear, there is almost nothing Crist or Rubio can do to transcend the looming question.

Everywhere he goes, Crist faces the independent candidacy question, and while stalwart Republican supporters across Florida are holding their breath — the governor seems in no rush to put it to rest.

"I'm not thinking about that today," Crist told inquiring reporters Friday at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School Biscayne Bay Campus in North Miami, a day after vetoing a contentious teacher tenure bill in Tallahassee. "We'll look at that later on," Crist said.

Lagging Republican rival Rubio by an average of more than 20 points even after weeks of anti-Rubio TV ads, Crist has to answer some important questions: Is running as a no-party affiliation candidate his only chance at winning? Would his entire campaign team quit? Would most or all of his longtime Republican supporters and money-raisers abandon him?

"Charlie and I have a personal relationship, a longtime friendship and loyalty. I would not answer that hypothetical question,'' said Dr. A.K. Desai, a St. Petersburg insurance executive and top Republican money-raiser, who is helping host a Crist fundraising reception Sunday at Crist's sister's house in St. Petersburg.

Tampa developer Al Austin, another elite GOP money-raiser, also declined to speculate what he would do if Crist ran as an independent. "I'm going to cross that bridge if I get there. I don't know. If he ran as a no-party and kept his Republican registration, that would make it even tougher for me to decide,'' Austin said.


[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:29am]


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