Austin Cassidy: Charlie Crist’s Best Chance is to Become an ‘Independent Republican’

Excerpted from an editorial in the Jacksonville, Florida Observer by former IPR editor Austin Cassidy:

Charlie Crist made a difficult decision earlier today when he vetoed Senate Bill 6, the Republican-backed measure that would have tied student performance to teacher pay.

The driving force behind the bill was State Senator John Trasher, who serves double-duty as Chairman of the Florida GOP. The veto puts Crist directly at odds with many of his fellow Republicans and has already caused a number of high-profile elected officials to pull their endorsements of his Senate candidacy.

In just about two weeks Crist will face another, even more difficult decision. That’s because April 30th is the deadline for candidates to officially qualify to run for Federal offices.

Crist, who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Mel Martinez, has been running for a year as a Republican. During that time he’s seen his fortunes change dramatically — starting out with an astronomical lead over little known challenger Marco Rubio, only to watch it all slip away. Now lagging by about 25% in most Republican primary polls, Crist needed to do something to change the game. And he has, sort of. His veto of SB6 will win him a lot of support from the teachers and their unions.

Unfortunately for Crist, teachers unions are not normally considered a major force in Republican primaries.

Much has been made over the past few months about the possibility that the Governor might “go rogue” and instead run for the Senate without a party, allowing him to skip the primary with Rubio and advance straight to the general election.

A Quinnipiac poll released today shows that if the governor ran as an independent, he would win 32 percent to Rubio’s 30 percent and Democrat Kendrick Meek’s 24 percent.

Crist’s campaign has flatly denied that he would leave the Republican Party as recently as early April. He seemed very clear on the subject when pressured for an answer during a nationally-televised Fox News debate last month in which he was widely quoted as having put the rumors to rest. “I’m running as a Republican,” the governor told debate-moderator Chris Wallace.

Going back on his word would give the Rubio campaign one more clip to be used in a negative ad highlighting Crist’s history of changing his mind on issues.

But maybe the governor can do both. Maybe he can “run as a Republican” and still by-pass the Republican primary in August.

If Crist intends to continue his campaign outside of the primary, his best strategy now would be to file the paperwork needed to create an entity called the Independent Republican Party. Doing so would allow him to continue to campaign with the Republican label, letting him put “Independent Republican” on every yard sign, bumper sticker and piece of direct mail that his campaign circulates.

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3 thoughts on “Austin Cassidy: Charlie Crist’s Best Chance is to Become an ‘Independent Republican’

  1. Pingback: Florida US Senate election: Libertarians qualify for first time, Democrats petition way on, major Republican may switch to independent | Independent Political Report

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