Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist is definitely ending his governorship in January, and now it looks like he'll be ending his affiliation with the GOP too. The possibility that Crist, who is facing a tough conservative challenger in the Republican primary for Florida's Senate seat, would run instead as an independent has long been discussed. Now reports say that Crist will announce Thursday at 5 p.m. that he is dropping out of the GOP primary to run for the Senate as an independent. Here's what that means for Crist, for the GOP, and for the Florida Senate race.
- Shows Growing GOP Hard-Right Liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias sees "another sign of the striking moves to the right the Republican Party has taken since Barack Obama's inauguration. Crist was always on the less-conservative half of the GOP spectrum, but his main sins have been things that would have been considered banal a few years ago."
- End of Moderate Republicans The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan sighs, "the message from the GOP couldn't be clearer: all moderate Republican politicians should leave now - before it gets even uglier. As for the gay ones: run, don't walk."
- Would He Caucus With Dems or GOP? Salon's Steve Kornacki asks, "Which party will he caucus with if he wins in November?" He reports, "the Republican senators who were willing to talk about the possbility of a Crist victory said they'd welcome him into their ranks." That includes at least Senator Lindsey Graham.
- Holding On to Donors for Dear Life The Wall Street Journal's Peter Wallsten and Valerie Bauerlein report Crist is already "planning a major fund-raiser for Sunday in Miami to try to keep most of his big donors from fleeing the campaign."
- Not a Done Deal The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza warns, based on conversations with sources close to the Governor, "Crist has shown a propensity to change his mind on things abruptly in the past (see Giuliani, Rudy) and that until he officially announces his independent candidacy it won't be a done deal."
- Implies Rubio's Credit Card Scandal Isn't Much The Atlantic's Chris Good points out that Crist's campaign has been playing up an alleged credit card scandal possibly involving Crist's conservative challenger, Marco Rubio. But, "If Crist thinks anything damaging will come out on Rubio, that would form an incentive for him to wait it out and keep running in the GOP primary." Crist isn't waiting it out.
- The Folly of Basing Decisions on Polls National Journal's John Mercurio reminds us that polls change. "Crist's decision on whether to bolt the GOP and run for Senate as an independent is driven in part by polls suggesting that his prospects brighten dramatically in a three-way vote. But the election is still more than six months away. And six months ago, similar polls showed Crist sporting supposedly "insurmountable" leads in the GOP primary over some nobody named Marco Rubio."