Charlie Crist's Caucus Dilemma

If the Florida governor wins his independent bid for the Senate, will he caucus with Democrats?

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As Democratic midterm prospects worsen and Florida Governor Charlie Crist hovers within striking distance of Republican nominee Marco Rubio, an interesting question has arisen in the state's Senate race: Would Crist, who dropped out of the GOP primary months ago to run against Rubio as an independent, caucus with Democrats if elected? Crist, for his part, isn't saying. "I caucus with the people of Florida," he told CNN's Ed Henry last week. "This is a moot question unless I win." True enough, but it hasn't stopped others from speculating about what a Democratic Crist could mean to the composition of the United States Senate.

  • Question Worth Considering  Five Thirty Eight's Nate Silver writes that while Crist might not want to discuss his plans, the latest polling numbers reveal he could have a large role in shaping the composition of the Congress. According to Silver's latest data analysis, "Democrats now have an approximately 20 percent chance of losing 10 or more seats in the Senate, according to the model, which would cost them control of the chamber unless [Crist] both wins his race and decides to caucus with them."

  • Little Impact  Crist's decision to keep quiet on the subject is smart politics, writes The Washington Post's Ezra Klein. But "the fact that that's smart politics suggests that our politics isn't very smart." Klein contends. Individual politicians "don't matter as much as much as we like to think" in Congress. Klein cites the voting record of Maine Senator Olympia Snow, "arguably the most independent Republican in the Senate," who still votes with Republicans more than 67 percent of the time. It's numbers like those that cause Klein to doubt whether Crist will ever emerge as a reliably Democratic vote.

  • Tacit White House Support   The Hill's Cheri Jacobus argues that while Barack Obama is officially supporting the Democratic nominee, Rep. Kendrick Meek, the fact the president prefers Crist is "one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington." By accepting the "dirty, sexy money from Establishment Democrats," Jacobus believes Crist runs the risk of creating the kind of perception problem that could cause him to lose "what little Republican support he may have been able to hold onto up to this point, significantly increasing the chances for a Marco Rubio (R) win in November."

  • No Room For Error New York Magazine Daily Intel's Dan Amira says Crist's recent gaffe regarding his health care position demonstrates "how hard it will be for Crist to thread the ideological needle in a way that will secure him a plurality vote this November with the right concoction of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents."  Expect the caucus mystery to continue, Amira advises, as Crist does his best to "appease Democrats without alienating Republicans, and appease Republicans without alienating Democrats."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.