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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The rise and fall of Charlie Crist



Crist-popularity_118720a How did it come to this? Charlie Crist, once Florida's spectacularly popular governor, now on the cusp of seeing his political career washed up?

"I honestly don't know," Crist said Friday. "But I certainly think the economy played a role."

In hindsight, the warning signs were too numerous: Marco Rubio winning local "straw poll" U.S. Senate elections that Crist brushed off as meaningless; prominent GOP allies publicly scolding him for endorsing President Barack Obama's stimulus package; veteran party leaders beseeching him to remove or at least rein in his handpicked Florida GOP chairman, Jim Greer.

"He's deader than the day before yesterday. I don't think there's any way in the world he can rehabilitate himself,'' former state GOP chairman Tom Slade said.

Crist's once stratospheric approval ratings have dropped below 50 percent. A 30-point lead over Rubio in the Republican U.S. Senate primary race has turned into a 23-point deficit. His fundraising is drying up, mentor Connie Mack yanked his support, and national Republican leaders and grass roots activists are openly contemptuous.

Now the political universe is watching for whether he will hang in as a Republican candidate, drop out or go independent. He must decide by noon Friday.  Crist's only hope at political viability is to win the Senate seat by running without party affiliation, Slade said. The chances of success, "slim to none."

The roots of Crist's demise as a Republican superstar sprouted almost as soon as he took office...

(Story here) and interactive report here.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:31am]


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