From Jonathan Capehart at PostPartisan at The Washington Post:
Since Florida Gov. Charlie Crist dumped the Republican Party to become an independent yesterday in his sinking candidacy for U.S. Senate, I’ve heard two intriguing things that make me think that Crist is not the dead man walking the Republicans want you to believe he is.
Today Show co-host Meredith Vieira asked Crist whether he deserted the GOP or whether the party has become so intolerant that there’s no room for a tolerant voice. “This is a desertion by nobody,” he said. “This is an embracing of all the people.”
According to a Quinnipiac poll released April 15, Crist got 30 percent of the Republicans, 27 percent of the Democrats and 38 percent of the Independents. He will need to peel off moderates in the Republican and Democratic Parties and hang onto as many Independents as possible to turn that positive poll into electoral reality in November. Disparaging Republicans — even though we all know Tea Party types who have taken over the GOP drove Crist out — wouldn’t be smart or prudent.
And then there was this nugget from the Rasmussen Reports poll released on April 22. “Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters now approve of the way Crist is handling his job, up 11 points from a month ago.” With a job approval rating like that, no wonder Crist wants to listen to the people.
From USA TODAY:
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who woke up this morning without the backing of the Republican Party for his Senate campaign, told MSNBC that he would “probably” give back political donations from GOP supporters — if asked.
“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough asked Crist, “Are you going to give them that money back or are you going to keep it?”
Crist responded: “Well, No. 1, nobody’s asked me yet. Not one person has asked me yet. And I think they realize that the reality is they gave it to my campaign, they gave it to me in order to espouse the ideas I believe in.”
Well, at least one person is asking for a refund: Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), called on Crist to give back donations, including $10,000 Cornyn gave Crist from his own political action committee.
If Crist does return any money, the conservative Club for Growth PAC is prepared to help facilitate the effort. “Every dollar in Charlie Crist’s campaign war chest was dishonestly raised, and he now has an obligation to refund his ill-gotten contributions to all those who request their money back,” the group’s president, Chris Chocola, said in a statement. “The Club for Growth PAC will be launching a contribution refund campaign immediately.”
But wait, kids, there’s more! From The Miami Herald:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Gov. Charlie Crist was back to work Friday a day after announcing he’s leaving the Republican Party and running for Senate as an independent candidate, watching the last day of Florida’s legislative session from his office and dealing with the enormous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The new direction of his campaign was on hold at least until Sunday night, when he scheduled a fundraiser on Miami Beach. Meanwhile, his campaign staff was jumping ship, as were many former supporters who quickly turned their back on the man that was recently their party’s superstar.
The now presumptive Republican nominee, tea party favorite Marco Rubio, immediately took advantage of Crist’s decision to run on his own, visiting Crist’s home county, Pinellas, to meet with volunteers in a Rubio campaign office there. And the Democratic front-runner, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, learned he would be challenged by a billionaire with ties to former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss and Mike Tyson.
In other words, in a state where crazy politics is the norm, things are getting a little crazier as people wait to see how Crist’s independent run will shake up the Senate race.
When he was backed by the party, Crist was a fundraising powerhouse with a statewide team of supporters. Now only the truly devoted will be with him while most party activists, Republican leaders and campaign workers choose to be loyal to the party rather than the candidate.
He has to hire a new campaign manager, a new pollster, a new company to do his television ads and he has to find a new base of donors.
Also Friday, billionaire real estate magnate Jeff Greene entered the Democratic primary against Meek, who began his campaign in January 2009 and is considered the favorite for the nomination.
And the plot thickens.