Florida Gov. Crist Considers Senate Race
Florida Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is considering a run for the Sunshine State's open Senate seat although he remains a long shot to run, according to informed sources in the state and in Washington.
Jim Greer, the chairman of the Florida Republican party and a close ally of Crist, said that "whether [Crist] is going to actually run for the Senate is a decision that will be made down the road because he doesn't want to take his eye off the ball, which is serving the people of Florida as governor."
No final decision is expected from Crist until the legislative session in Florida concludes in early May, said those familiar with the governor's thinking. Crist would not, under any circumstances, appoint himself to a Senate vacancy if Martinez were to step aside early, those same sources made clear today.
Crist, a popular governor in the third year of his first term, would become an immediate frontrunner in the primary and general election due to his statewide name identification and significant popularity even among Independents and some Democrats.
The news was first reported by Roll Call newspaper -- the Fix's alma mater.
The Florida seat is being vacated by Sen. Mel Martinez (R) after a single term. (The Roll Call story said Martinez was considering resigning his seat before his term ends but sources close to the senator insist that is inaccurate.) Both parties saw their top recruits step aside over the last month with former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and state CFO Alex Sink (D) taking passes on the contest.
With those two 800-pound gorillas out of the running, the expectation had been that the Democratic and Republican primaries would be crowded affairs.
On the Democratic side, Rep. Kendrick Meek and state Sen. Dan Gelber are already in the race and Reps. Allen Boyd and Ron Klein are reportedly considering the contest.
For Republicans, the list of potential candidate is long with Reps. Vern Buchanan and Connie Mack IV as well as former state House Speaker Marco Rubio considered the most serious candidates.
Crist's decision to look at the contest likely freezes the field -- particularly on the Republican side -- for the foreseeable future.
Those who have followed Crist's career closely suggest two main reasons for his consideration of the Senate opening: the possibility of it as a potent 2012 perch and the reality that he would be term limited out as governor in 2014.
Crist has made no secret of his national ambitions; he was all-but-openly campaigning to be Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) vice presidential nominee and clearly retains an interest in running for president in 2012. It's possible that Crist and his team believe that the Senate would give him a broader palette of issues on which to battle with President Barack Obama and emerge as a leading national voice for a party badly in need of them.
The other consideration for Crist is the realization that he will be term limited out as governor in six years time and may never have as good an opportunity to run for and serve in the Senate as he does in 2010. Should Crist's national ambitions come up short, the Senate would provide a far smoother re-insertion into political life than the final two years of his second term as governor.
Regardless of the reasons behind his interest, it's clear that Crist is at least mulling the possibility. And that is big news on the 2010 Senate landscape.
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