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PW logo Extra Bonus Quote of the Day Goode Joins Constitution Party
Democrats Lead for Hawaii Governor Crist Leads Three-Way Race
Congressman Compares Oil Spill to Chocolate Milk Reid Sets Deadline for Bank Reform Bill

News from the Votemaster            

Crist to Run an an Independent in Florida     Permalink

When NRSC chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) recruited Florida's sitting governor, Charlie Crist (R-FL) to run for the Senate seat vacated midterm by Mel Martinez, little did he realize what was going to happen in the Sunshine State. He (and all the pundits) "knew" Crist's election as senator was about a certain a bet as you can get in politics. The subsequent entry of an unknown former Speaker of the state House, Marco Rubio, was regarded as a joke and polls showed Crist 20 to 30 points ahead of Rubio in the Republican primary. That was then. This is now. Friday, Crist left the Republican Party after numerous polls put him 20 to 30 points behind Rubio, an unprecedented drop for a candidate (in the words of former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards) not found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. Instead, Crist is going to run as independent against Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek.

Crist starts out with more than a few problems. First, he has already been attacked, if not condemned, by virtually every leading Republican in the state and country, all of whom will now line up very solidly behind Rubio. This includes Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL), his former campaign manager and chief aide, who was appointed to the Senate by none other than Crist.

Second, virtually all his big donors have or will soon desert him. Any big-shot donor who gives him money and later wants to have much influence in the Republican Party can forget about it. So Crist is going to have a lot of trouble raising money. In fact, some donors who already gave him money will demand it back. He currently has $7.5 million cash on hand, but refunds may depelete his bank account quickly. And Florida is an extremely expensive state to run it, with over a dozen major media markets.

Third, the tea partiers are going to regard this as a "victory" as big as the NY-23 special election last year where an extremely right-wing independent, Doug Hoffman, drove a moderate Republican, Dede Scozzafava, from the race--thus allowing a Democrat to win the district for the first time since the Civil War. But a victory is a victory, no matter how Pyrrhic. This will only energize them more and cause them to go all out for Rubio.

Fourth, Crist will not be listed third on the ballot, but ninth or lower. Florida law says the incumbent's party gets the first slot and the other major party is second. These are followed by minor parties in the order of qualifying. The Libertarian Party and Constitution Party have already qualified, and the Surfer's party and Possibility Party may yet qualify. After them come the names of people not running on any party line, in order of qualification. Sue Askeland, Bruce Ray Riggs, Bobbie Bean and Rick Tyler qualified before Crist so they will be above him on the ballot. As people who followed the 2000 presidential election may remember, ballot position is a big deal in Florida.

Fifth, so far nobody has asked Crist which party he will caucus with if elected. That question is likely to come up sooner or later. There have been numerous independent governors in recent times, such as Angus King of Maine and Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, but truly independent senators don't exist. If a senator refuses to caucus with the Democrats and refuses to caucus with the Republicans, he has no influence on policy and nobody to give him committee assignments. It is untenable. There are two independents in the Senate now, both of whom caucus with the Democrats. Bernie Sanders is to the left of the Democrats, not in the middle and Joe Lieberman was a Democrat for 40 years before losing the 2006 senatorial primary. Crist is going to have to choose sides and no matter what he says, he is going to anger a lot of people.

Sixth, most of his staff has either already quit or will soon do so. Any staffer who wants to work for the Republicans in the future had better see the handwriting on the wall and drop Crist like a stone. And any new staffers signing up to work for him can forget about working for either party in the future. Where is Crist going to find experienced staffers?

Seventh, and completely out of the blue, is the candidacy of billionaire Jeff Greene--as a Democrat. Greene made most of his money betting against the Florida housing market--a small-scale version of Goldman Sachs. But convincing Floridians who lost their house to vote for someone who profitted immensely from their misery will be a tough sell. The reason this may hurt Crist is it brings attention to the Democratic race and makes the likely Democratic candidate, congressman Kendrick Meek, look like the only adult in state politics.

Still, Crist is not a basket case. He is still a popular incumbent governor. While the far right despises his moderate positions and the hug he gave Obama last year, unlike in the Republican primary, Democrats and independents get to vote in the general election, and many of them still like him, have never heard of Meek, and have definitely heard of Rubio and don't like any of it. Crist's best strategy now is to tack to the left and try to peel off enough Democrats and moderates to cut off Meek's oxygen supply. If Meek collapses in the coming months and Crist can frame the race as the moderate Crist against the wingnut Rubio, he could pull this off. But that is a big "if." Expect lots of polls next week, but don't take any of them seriously. It will be weeks before the situation even begins to stablize as a race with a sitting governor running as an independent against both a Democrat and a Republican for a Senate seat has never happened before.

Brown-Waite to Retire from Congress after This Session     Permalink

Rep. Ginny Waite-Brown has announced that she will not run for a fifth term in FL-05 due to a health problem. She has endorsed Hernando County Sheriff Richard Nugent (R) to replace her. The district has a PVI of R+9, so Nugent is probably the favorite already.

Recent Headlines Now Listed at the Bottom of the Main Page     Permalink

All the main pages ever posted to this site since May 24, 2004 are still available. Just keep clicking on "Previous Report" above long enough and you will get there, or use the "Previous Elections" link in the menu below the map or the search box below. Starting today, the 25 most recent headlines will appear at the bottom of the main page all the time as an aid to people who have missed a recent posting.

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Recent Headlines (clickable)

Apr27 Democrats Fail to Invoke Cloture on Wall Street Reform Bill
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Apr23 Democrats Will Introduce Bill to Weaken SCOTUS Ruling on Corporate Political Contributions
Apr23 Udall Will Claim 112th Senate is not a Continuation of the 111th
Apr16 Thompson Won't Challenger Feingold for Senate
Apr16 Crist's Campaign Chairman Quits
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Apr16 Poll: 34% Think Obama Has Raised Taxes
Apr16 Rundown of Vulnerable Republican Senate Seats
Apr14 Deutch Elected to Congress in Florida
Apr14 Rundown of Competitive Senate Races
Apr14 Analysis of Battle to Replace Stevens
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Mar23 List of the Democrats Who Voted No
Mar23 Lessons from the Whole Health-Insurance Reform Process
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Mar22 Some Provisions of the Health Bill Kick in Before the Midterms
Mar22 Court Challenges to the Health-Insurance Bill Loom
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