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A Charlie Crist challenge to Rick Scott in 2014: Democratic nightmare or gift?

If former Gov. Charlie Crist's endorsement of Barack Obama did anything, it fired the first official salvo in the ever-present fight for the independent voter in Florida between Mitt Romney and the president in 2012.

(Independent voters traditionally determine elections in the nation's largest swing state and, as Florida Republican Party chairman Lenny Curry confirmed on Monday, “Mitt Romney cannot win the presidency without Florida.")

But the chatter among Republicans at the RNC today is that Crist's endorsement is a sign of a more interesting fight to come -- from their vantage point -- in 2014.

That would be the fight between the potential candidacy of Alex Sink, the Democrat and former CFO who lost to Republican Rick Scott in 2010 by a narrow 62,000 votes, and Charlie Crist for the Democratic nomination in 2014. Or between Crist and whichever other Democratic alternative may be named. (Among them: Fort Lauerdale Mayor Jack Seiler, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former state Sen. Rod Smith and state Sen. Nan Rich.)

The mere suggestion that Crist would switch from no-party affiliation to the Democratic Party already is stirring up trouble in Democratic circles. "Some party leaders who are encouraging him and others who are very much against it,'' one party insider told us.

Former state Sen. Dan Gelber believes Crist may help Obama with Republicans and independent voters who believe "the GOP has become simply too extreme." But he's not ready to embrace the idea of Crist as a candidate.

"I think party insiders are over thinking the prospect of Crist embracing Democrats and vice versa,'' Gelber said. "The Republican reaction was obviously an over reaction as they acted like Crist had committed a savage crime with his endorsement.  It's a long way to 2014, but Scott should be worried because lots of right-thinking Republicans and Independents feel totally at sea with his party and policies. Crist's endorsement is simply another proof point of that sentiment."

Here's what we'll be watching: if Crist starts campaigning with the president in Florida, building up his political gravitas and planting the seeds for a new coalition of moderates and independents, we can all assume he's ready to run. As our AP colleague Gary Fineout has pointed out, the signs are already abundant that Crist is ready for a run -- the highway billboards, the Morgan & Morgan television ad, the endorsement of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

One Democratic consultant told us, that Alex Sink holds all the cards. "If Alex Sink decides to run, Crist is more likely to get out of the Democratic primary but if Sink decides to sit it out and gets behind a Democratic opponent of Crist's, he's in bigger trouble."

That's also trouble for the Democratic Party, this consultant warns. "This is the first time since Bob Martinez where we have a true opportunity to knock out a Republican governor who is hated across the board. Why would Democrats risk making the 2014 election about Charlie Crist and not Rick Scott?"

These scenarios makes Republicans practically giddy with glee. "How desperate are they?" mused Allison DeFoor, a long-time Florida Republican activist and advisor to governors. "I think it's more trouble for Democrats, particularly Alex Sink, than it is for Republicans."

Curry is already preparing his playbook and ready to fire up his barbs. "How’s a guy who is pro-life, pro-gun, anti-gay marriage, anti- civil unions and is to the right of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on abortion -- how is he going to run as a Democrat,” he asked reporters Monday.

Will he launch television ads to drive that point home? "If Charlie Crist wants to try to play ball and rain on our parade, we're going to respond,'' he said. 

Comments

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RS

The sad thing here is we are making an issue over lenny Curry, Charlie Crist, Rick Scott and Alex Sink.

The reality is Charlie Crist was a damn good Gov. for Florida. I am a conservative Republican and would vote for Charlie time and time again.

See, the whole Alex Sink/Bill McBride household is weak and does not inspire voters. Debbie Wasserman Schulz is too polarizing (much like Rick Scott). I would think Iorio would be a solid choice, she was an excellent Mayor, but I could see her as a CFO candidate too.

Who cares what Charlie did or said...compared to his results as Gov. It is a shame that the extremists, a.k.a. Tea Bags have taken over the discussion with their irrational theories and chants. Charlie would have been a better Senator than Marco Polo....but he didn't win. You see Marco Polo was Speaker of the House and he essentially controlled all legislation. Marco Polo will say he has positions about immigration, but when he had a chance to do something about it , he failed to.

Crist still has GOP support and Independent support. He is sympathetic to some Democratic causes and they should embrace that. He really is their only shot.

But the Democrats, who are famous for poor nominations and weak organization will end up nominating someone like Perry Thurston. You ask who? Exactly.

Garycharris

Dear RS. Based on your comments, you are coming out of the closet as a full blown socialist. It may come as a shock to you, but you do not even reach the level of a RINO, you are a dedicated Democrat. Good ridance.

JThomasin

Crist's sway with any fence dwelling older Florida voters is like gold for Obama.

whasup

Shucking Chuckles Crist has only ever care about his own political backside. It'S bad enough that the old words have been emphasized because they are old words. What's more important is the information that we now have coming in ...l about all kinds of things.

Mike

This guy is a political windsock and has never committed to any issue. I can still remember the many instances of news clips and interviews where he is asked, "What is your stance on.....?" and always get the reply of "Well, um, well, I am still , um , thinking of my position and how I am going to vote after weighing the options.

Good governor? What did he ever do other than the minimum to squeak through without committing to anything?

He took federal money to balance the budget and leave the hard work for the next governor is what he did. Surely he would have tried to bankrupt us with that stupid train money which is destroying part of California right now.

Good luck chuck! Go move to NY to be with your beard and run for dog catcher there! You would be much more effective

Dr. Ed Holmes

I love Charlie Crist! Rick Scott has been the worst Governor that Florida has ever elected. Rick has gutted higher education, K-12 education, and Florida's unemployment level has ticked up to 8.8%. Charlie, you can run as a Republican, Democrat, or NPA and you will get my vote and financial support.

Rick Scott, you suck!

wander s

crist for florida Gov 2014 yesssssssssssssssssssssssss

Daniel

Alex Sink? Good lord, you've gotta be kidding. No more washed up retreads, please. Crist gets my vote.

JJ Cambell

Charlie Crist and Obama both out of the closet.The two of them in Tampa staring into each others eyes was a yuk.
also some revealing photo's are appearing on the net.

Joey

Sink had a better than even chance to win the Governership, but flubbed the chance with an inferior campaign. Charlie Crist will trounce Rick Scott! I can get behind that...

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