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Crist to decide on U.S. Senate bid after legislative session ends in May

Gov. Charlie Crist greets people at the Port of Palm Beach on Friday. His approval rating is a comfortable 73 percent.

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Gov. Charlie Crist greets people at the Port of Palm Beach on Friday. His approval rating is a comfortable 73 percent.

Just a few weeks ago we would have said there was maybe a 5 percent chance Gov. Charlie Crist would run for the Senate in 2010, rather than a second term as governor. Lately it seems more like 40 percent.

This is little more than guesswork, as it seems only Crist and presumably his wife really seem to know. But the fact remains that our governor, who used to dismiss the idea, now acknowledges he might run for the Senate. And he seems all too happy to keep chatting with Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, who said he and Crist have talked "several times" about him running for the seat to be vacated by Republican incumbent Mel Martinez.

"It's more than likely that I will run for re-election as governor, but I'm not focused on that right now. I am thinking about the budget and the stimulus package. It would not be appropriate to do that until after session," Crist told the St. Petersburg Times, adding that once the legislative session ends in May, he'll sit down with his wife, Carole, and decide what is best.

Being governor may seem more rewarding (and difficult) than being a senator, but senators have no term limits. And Crist was never shy about changing jobs. Consider his history:

1986: Ran unsuccessfully for state Senate.

1992: Elected to state Senate.

1994: Re-elected to state Senate.

1998: Lost U.S. Senate race.

1999: Appointed deputy secretary of Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

2000: Elected education commissioner.

2002: Elected attorney general.

2006: Elected governor.

Still popular? Yes …

While we're acknowledging Crist could be a Senate candidate, we should also acknowledge his magic touch. Florida is mired in an economic collapse, an insurance crisis, an ethics scandal at the top of the GOP in Tallahassee. So what do Florida voters say about the main man in charge, Crist?

A Jan. 30-to-Feb. 1 poll released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce found 73 percent approve of the job he's doing (margin or error plus or minus 4 percent).

"He's where the future of politics is and has done a lot of what Barack Obama has done, and says, 'I don't want to just talk about things in a Democrat or Republican fashion. … I'm going to look for places for common ground, and I'm going to have some key issues that are not typical for what people would expect for my party,' " Democratic pollster Dave Beattie said of Crist. "It's really a state where we don't want overly partisan candidates. We want people that are in the middle, that are going to look for solutions."

… but there are critics

The Wall Street Journal editorial board clearly was not among those polled about Crist: "It's scary to imagine the bill taxpayers will get when the next big hurricane hits Florida. It's even scarier to think Mr. Crist is being touted as a potential GOP candidate for the White House," it said of Crist's handling of the property insurance crisis after State Farm announced it's leaving Florida.

Baker eyes options

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who will be out of office in 11 months, says he's not ruling out a run for the U.S. Senate (as he more or less does running for the House if C.W. Bill Young retires). But don't count him in: "I'm not seriously considering it. I'm not ruling it out, but I'm not reviewing it or any of that. From what I've read in the paper, mine is a different category from (Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio). It sounds like she's actively reviewing it," he said.

Tampa lawmaker on TV

Check out state Rep. Kevin Ambler, R-Tampa, on Political Connections today at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Bay News 9.

Winner of the week

Larry Cretul: The newly anointed Republican state House speaker pro tem from Ocala not only was hoisted to power by the vacuum created by scandal-plagued Ray Sansom, but he fared well in his initial public appearances, made staff changes suggesting a hands-on leader, and so far enjoys big time good will in Tallahassee.

Loser(s) of the week

(Clockwise from left) Republican U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan of Sarasota, Connie Mack IV of Fort Myers, former state House Speakers Allan Bense of Panama City and Marco Rubio of Miami: As long as Gov. Charlie Crist dangles his name for the Senate, these aspiring candidates will struggle to put together serious campaigns.

Crist to decide on U.S. Senate bid after legislative session ends in May 02/07/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 8, 2009 7:08am]

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