Charlie Crist’s Decision To Go Independent Looking Smarter And Smarter

When Florida Governor Charlie Crist dropped out of the Republican Senate primary to run as an independent, the conventional wisdom was that he’d fade away quickly but as time goes on, it’s looking like he made a very smart political decision:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who switched from Republican to independent, holds a small 37 percent to 33 percent lead over Republican Marco Rubio in his bid to win the state’s Senate seat, with Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek trailing at 17 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted June 1-7. Eleven percent are undecided and the margin of error is 2.9 points.

Billionaire real estate developer Jeff Greene, who has jumped into the Democratic race to challenge Meek, polls 14 percent in the three-way race.

Rubio is keeping 64 percent of the Republican vote compared to Crist’s 28 percent, so Crist’s lead rests upon the 37 percent of Democratic support he is drawing and the 51 percent support he gets from independents compared to 26 percent for Rubio and 10 percent for Meek.

Meek still suffers from the fact, at this relatively early stage of the campaign, that 69 percent of voters say they haven’t heard enough about him to form a favorable or unfavorable opinion.

A separate poll, by Rasmussen Reports, conducted June 7, has Rubio and Crist tied at 37 percent each with 15 percent for Meek and 11 percent undecided. In Mid-May, Rasmussen had Rubio ahead 38 percent to 31 percent with Meek at 17 percent and 11 percent undecided.

Rasmussen has Rubio keeping the allegiance of 66 percent of Republicans. Crist gets 24 percent of Republicans, 47 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of unaffiliated votersd (compared to Rubio’s 38 percent, with the rest for Meek, someone else or undecided.)


“Obviously there is a long time until November, but (Crist) is doing very well among independent voters, almost as well among Democrats as Meek,” said Quinnipiac’s Peter A. Brown. “With Rubio getting two-thirds of the Republican vote, the fate of Gov. Crist, who switched from a Republican to independent six weeks ago, depends heavily on his ability to appeal to Democratic voters.”

The trend so far, in fact, has been one in which the race has essentially turned into one between Rubio and Crist, while the probable Democrat nominee has faded far into the background:

In fact, there are some reports that top Democrats are already in the process of abandoning Meek, or any Democrat for that matter, in favor of Crist.

Additionally, Crist recently hired the former Chief of staff to Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer as his media consultant and Crist has hinted that, if he is elected, he would caucus with the Democrats for leadership purposes (of course, as James noted last night on the podcast, it’s likely that Crist will try to caucus with whoever happens to be in the majority on November 3rd).

In addition to the fading Democratic candidate, though, there’s another factor that could go a long way toward helping Crist in November, the Gulf Oil Spill. With oil threatening the Gulf Coast of Florida, Crist is getting much free media time on Florida television and, he’s staking out a position on offshore drilling that is likely to be quite popular over the next few months:

Rubio has maintained his support for expanded offshore drilling, but Crist has dropped his support.

“Recognized that offshore drilling indeed poses many threats to the well being of our state, Charlie Crist advocates for a ban on the issuance of offshore oil leases,” his Senate campaign said on its website. “Gov. Crist advocates letting Florida votes decide whether we should have a constitutional ban on offshore drilling.”

For the past month, in fact, Crist has been hinting that he will call the Florida Legislature into session for the purpose of putting on the November ballot a Constitutional Amendment that would ban offshore oil drilling in Florida waters. This could all work out in Crist’s favor given the fact that a recent poll shows a majority of Florida voters opposing offshore oil drilling by a 51% to 42% margin. Before the oil pill, the same poll had Florida voters favoring offshore drilling by a 66% to 27% margin.

What this all boils down to is the simple fact that, after appearing to be politically dead in the GOP primary and making what most analysts considered a last-ditch desperate move by going Independent, Charlie Crist appears to be in the perfect position to walk into the Senate in Janaury 2011.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2010, Congress, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. mark says:

    As governor of Florida, “Chain Gang” Charlie could do nothing to prevent the collapse of our economy, stop the loss of jobs, maintain the housing market, or keep the oil off Florida’s beaches. These are things he would like to have done, but simply couldn’t. Like all politicians, he would promise to do them if he felt it would get him elected, but he simply got caught as Governor, at a very bad time.
    One thing he could have done, and promised to do, was to identify the remains of the children who died, while incarcerated at the A.G. Dozier school in Marianna Florida. He tasked the Fl. Dept. of Law Enforcement to (and here I will quote)
    Determine 1. The entity that owned or operated the property at the time the graves were placed. 2. Identification, where possible, of the remains of those buried on the site. 3.Determine if any crimes were committed, and if so , the perpetrators of those crimes.
    After about a 6 month investigation, the FDLE submitted a report in which they concluded that the State of Florida was the owner of the property on which the “Boot Hill” cemetery was located, and they established (and here I will quote from the summary) the” identification of the students who died and were buried at the cemetery”. (FDLE Case summary EI-73-8445.)
    It is worth noting that the FDLE admitted to never once turning one shovel of dirt to ascertain exactly how many sets of remains are buried at the school. They admitted to combing through official school records until they found enough names to cover the number of small crosses that were found on the property. The fact that a cursory glance with a G.P.R. fitted with a rather low frequency antenna could have determined if there were 32 sets of remains to be identified, or 82 sets of remains, some of which may not have found their way into the official record. The fact that Charlie promised to identify “the remains of”, and settled for the names of. the dead at Dozier will bother me to my death. One cannot identify “remains” without looking at them. This, Mr. Crist could have done, promised to do, and failed to do. He should now leave public service forever, as he shows no true interest in serving anyone but himself, and will switch stories, change parties, and promise anything that will get him another paying gig.

  2. Jimbo Fisher says:

    Crist’s handpicked state GOP leader was indicted on 6 counts of money laundering and fraud. Despite the party calling on Crist time and time again to intervene, Crist back the Chairman to the bitter end.

    He left the GOP solely on opportunistic grounds, absolving himself of the troubles he knew were inevitable.

    Before its all said and done, the Jim Greer scandal will end the Crist campaign