Republican Gov. Charlie Crist should run as an independent in his campaign for the U.S. Senate, according to a tampabay.com reader poll.
More than 70 percent of respondents said Crist, a lifelong Republican, should abandon his bid for the Republican Senate nomination and run as an independent. About 28 percent said Crist should drop out of the race altogether, and about 2 percent said he should run as a Republican.
The tampabay.com poll is unscientific and involves more than 11,000 readers of the website who voted for one of the three options over 24 hours beginning Tuesday morning.
Political pundits and strategists typically put little stock in a Web poll, since respondents are not chosen at random. Web polls also are prone to manipulation.
"Web polls are fun, but if Web polls were accurate, we'd all be referring to Ron Paul as Mr. President," said Democratic political strategist Steve Schale, who ran Barack Obama's winning campaign in Florida. Schale said he voted in the poll for Crist to run as an independent, "not because I support him, but because I think it would be fun for the politics sake and would shake up the debate."
Crist faces a tough primary challenge against Republican rival Marco Rubio, favored by as much as 20 percentage points in a Quinnipiac University poll last week.
The same poll gave Crist a 2 percentage point lead over Rubio if he runs as an independent.
This week, Crist acknowledged for the first time that he's considering an independent bid.
If he runs as an independent, Crist potentially could set up a three-way general election race between Crist, Rubio and the likely Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami.
Fearing long-term damage to the GOP, several prominent Republicans in Florida and across the country have urged Crist to run as a Republican or get out of the race.