Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At a political crossroad, Crist is front and center

Gov. Charlie Crist greets students Friday during a visit to the McFatter Technical Center in Davie. Crist is spending the weekend on Fisher Island, likely weighing the pros and cons of running for the Senate as an independent.

Associated Press

Gov. Charlie Crist greets students Friday during a visit to the McFatter Technical Center in Davie. Crist is spending the weekend on Fisher Island, likely weighing the pros and cons of running for the Senate as an independent.

Gov. Charlie Crist is spending the weekend at one of his favorite places: his wife Carole's house on Miami's exclusive Fisher Island.

His all-time favorite place, of course, is at the center of the political and media universe, and he's there, too.

By extending the guessing game about his future, Crist owns this news cycle, and the next and the one after that, as he ponders whether to run for the U.S. Senate as an unaffiliated or independent candidate. By dangling himself as a middle-ground alternative to Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek, Crist is drawing more attention than he ever could otherwise.

The first clue of Crist's thinking surfaced nine days ago. Shortly after he vetoed the teacher merit pay bill known as Senate Bill 6, Crist faced an enthusiastic crowd of students and teachers at a "veto rally" at Leon High School in Tallahassee and said what sounds like the logical theme of an outsider-style campaign.

"The people spoke, and they spoke loudly," he said. "It is the power of people over politics."

People over politics. Charlie Crist for U.S. Senate.

Sounds good, but not for a minute does anyone believe that political considerations didn't figure prominently in his veto of the pay bill. It's important to remember that for Crist, the political calculus is always a vital element, even though in this case, a veto was forced by an unpredictable and ferocious level of public opposition.

Everywhere Crist goes, people grab his hand and thank him for vetoing the bill in an endless series of furtive, happy encounters that give Crist strength. The statewide teachers union on Monday will launch a statewide TV ad that shows the happy faces of students and parents thanking Crist for "doing the right thing."

Crist would be targeting the political center: not just independents, but partisan voters with little enthusiasm for Rubio or Meek. He doesn't need a majority to win, only one more vote than the next candidate. The GOP governor fond of quoting Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan appears to be on the verge of abandoning his political party as a means of preserving and prolonging his political career.

Still, Crist is one step away from a perilous path. He faces fundraising challenges and a likely shakeup of his campaign staff. He'll be called disloyal, a traitor, an opportunist.

If he runs as an NPA candidate of no party affiliation, will voters see him as the refreshing third option they've been waiting for, or as a typical politician who will do anything to survive?

Some close friends have urged Crist to drop out and remain a loyal Republican, quickly and enthusiastically endorse Rubio, stockpile his campaign money, finish his term as governor and focus on defeating Democrat Bill Nelson in 2012. Crist has little enthusiasm for this, which political insiders call "rehab."

It would be a capitulation to Rubio who, despite strong poll numbers, has never run statewide and whose tax records are being freshly scrutinized by the IRS. Just as important, it would be a surrender to Rubio's mentor and role model, former Gov. Jeb Bush, which is something Crist has no intention of doing.

But if he runs as an independent and loses, his career will likely be over at age 54.

Reporters asked how Crist can explain such a dramatic shift after saying so many times he planned to run as a Republican.

"Things change," Crist said.

A footnote: By law, unaffiliated candidates are listed last on the ballot, in alphabetical order, after major and minor party candidates. That ensures that Crist would appear no higher than fifth on the November ballot, behind (in order) Rubio, Meek, Libertarian Alexander Snitker and another unaffiliated candidate, Sue Askeland of Stuart.

But Crist is no afterthought in politics. He's the center of attention at the moment, and the likelihood is he will run as the Senate candidate of the center.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

At a political crossroad, Crist is front and center 04/23/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 23, 2010 10:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. One of St. Petersburg's newest condo projects is sold out

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. Records show that a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit sold Friday for $620,000 in an all-cash deal. Two other units — a 3-bedroom, 2-bath penthouse and a …

     Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. 
[Rendering courtesy of aalliiggnn LLC]
  2. Tedd Webb, co-host of top morning radio show, calling it quits after five decades

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — It's 9 Monday morning and Tedd Webb is exhausted.

    Radio personality Tedd Webb hopes to continue spending an hour each mid-day on the financial show The Opening Bell but he'll be stepping down from the top-rated morning show he co-hosts with Jack Harris. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]

  3. Pasco OKs higher fee for drainage work

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Trying to keep neighborhoods drier is going to cost Pasco County property owners some extra dollars.

    Commissioner Mike Wells Jr., who voted against a higher storm-water fee in February, supported the increase this time. "Bottom line: It's needed,'' he said.
  4. Florida Gators announce 2018 football schedule

    Blogs

    The Florida Gators announced their 2018 football schedule Tuesday, including an early SEC game against Kentucky and a matchup against Colorado State, which was part of coach Jim McElwain's buyout from the Rams.

  5. Directors of Haunted Mansion doc talk bringing piece of Disney history to Orlando

    Blogs

    Filmmakers Ryan Grulich and James H. Carter II aren't just casual fans of The Haunted Mansion ride. They're obsessed.

    Publicity still from the Foolish Mortals documentary.