Charlie Crist Has a New Message: ‘Things Change’
Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday said he thought voters could understand if he bowed to increasing pressure and abandoned the Republican Party to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent.
“Things change,” Crist said.
Although shedding little light on his future with a party whose leaders are increasingly ridiculing his candidacy, Crist fired back at Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, following an event at the state’s Old Capitol.
“I think I’ll take the advice of people in Florida, instead of the advice of people in Washington,” Crist said. “They’ve tried to tell us a lot. And I don’t think we need to listen to that.”
Cornyn has said that if Crist left the Republican Party and continued his campaign for U.S. Senate as a non-party contender that he would “be a man without a party,” with no future within the GOP. Cornyn, who endorsed Crist over rival Marco Rubio almost immediately after the governor announced his candidacy last May, has been signaling that he should remain in the party and drop out of the race.
“I think he’s got other potential and aspirations, so I think from that standpoint, it would be a bad decision,” for Crist to run as an independent Cornyn said last week.
Rob Jesmer, NRSC executive director, said in an e-mail Monday there was “zero chance” of Crist continuing to run as a Republican. And while Crist’s comments Tuesday further fueled speculation about an independent run being announced by the April 30 end of the federal qualifying period, Crist also downplayed the call for him to quit.
“I don’t think it’s a lot of people,” Crist said. “It’s one guy.”
Republican leadership clearly is concerned about a Crist non-party candidacy, with a Quinnipiac University poll last week showing him leading narrowly in a three-way race with Rubio and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the presumptive Democratic candidate.
Cornyn earlier warned Crist, “Our job is to elect Republicans, so that’s what we’ll do – and I don’t care who it is.”
While Crist sought to diminish the impact of the criticism, it’s also apparent that its not confined to “one guy.” For the first time Tuesday, Crist also addressed former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack’s resignation as his campaign chairman, a move that followed the governor’s veto last week of a merit-pay bill pushed by Republican legislative leaders, business groups and former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Mack, Crist’s political mentor under whom he served as a state political director, now works for a lobbying firm in Tallahassee.
“I’m disappointed, of course,” Crist said of Mack’s defection. “The man’s been a very great friend for a long time. But I respect anybody’s decision about what they think is appropriate for them.”