Crist Close to Switching Independent

As big-name Republicans ranging from former Vice President Dick Cheney to past presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani all weighed in last week for conservative GOP Senate hopeful Marco Rubio, moderate Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist appeared to be leaning to “switching and fighting.”

As of Thursday, signs were strong that Crist would abandon his bid in the August GOP Senate primary and instead run for the Senate in the general election this fall as an independent against Rubio and the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Kendrick Meek. With polls showing Crist trailing Rubio among Republican voters, the governor apparently has never recovered within his party from his public embrace of Barack Obama and endorsement of the stimulus package last year. After weeks of insisting that “I am running as a Republican,” Crist told reporters last week “Things change.” Under state law, Crist as until April 30 to pay the $6,960 (4% of his annual salary as of July 1, 2009) that state law requires of him to run as an independent this fall. As of December, Crist had $9 million in the bank, although it is questionable how much he could raise as an independent and a lame-duck governor.

The latest Rasmussen Poll shows that among likely voters statewide Rubio has 37%, Crist 30%, and Meek 22%.