Gov. Charlie Crist "goes it alone in his bid for Senate," the Miami Herald noted in its headline today for a story about the Florida governor's plan to ditch his floundering attempt to secure the GOP Senate nomination in favor of an independent run.
The story by Herald staffers Steve Bousquet, Adam C. Smith and Beth Reinhard painted Crist in a sympathetic light as a misunderstood statesman who's become a "pariah" to his party and has thus been "forced to run an unconventional race" (emphases mine):
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Charlie Crist, a pariah in the Republican Party that has been vital to his success, will launch a risky political career Thursday as a ``people's candidate'' for the U.S. Senate with no party affiliation.
Crist began telling campaign donors of his decision Wednesday, which he will announce at 5 p.m. at Straub Park in downtown St. Petersburg, surrounded by family members, friends, local supporters and an army of media personnel. It will be an extraordinary event in Florida's colorful political history, as a one-term governor who blew a 30-point lead in the Republican Senate primary is forced to run an unconventional race.
``I think the people are concerned about the future, and they're interested in having people who put them first, instead of politics,'' Crist said. ``I think that's where they are.''
The announcement site in Crist's hometown is in his emotional comfort zone. But it allows him to present himself as an outsider who is critical of the way his fellow Republicans are running things in Tallahassee, even though he has been a fixture in the capital for 16 years, as a state senator, commissioner of education, attorney general and governor.
Crist, expected to remain a registered Republican, will be forced to rebuild a campaign without the logistical and financial support of the Republican Party. He'll have to hire a new manager, staff and consultants for the three-way race with Republican Marco Rubio and the Democratic nominee, and he is sure to be pilloried by Republicans as a political opportunist with one goal: to salvage his career.
At the same time, Crist will have the bully pulpit of governor and the potential to redefine the race through his one-on-one campaigning skills, name recognition and image as a centrist during a period of political turbulence.
``If anybody can do it, he can,'' said Rep. Ron Saunders, a Key West Democrat. ``He's got a lot of cross-over support. He may be catching the anti-government wave at the right moment.''
Crist, who prides himself on listening to the people, polled the issue and he liked what he saw. In a three-way race, Crist is about dead even with Rubio, Democrat Kendrick Meek in third.
A kick-off fundraiser is tentatively scheduled this weekend in Miami, where wife Carole owns a home.
Crist's go-for-broke strategy is remarkable on several levels. A politician who loathes making political enemies, he's willing to sever ties with countless Republican allies to run as a third option.