Cast-off Crist goes it alone

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 2010; 10:17 AM

Charlie Crist has become a walking, breathing example of how to fumble away a party nomination.

But is he a bumbler -- or a victim?

The national media narrative, while not letting the Florida governor off the hook, is that a right-wing uprising forced an otherwise sensible moderate out of the Republican primary.

But if you're a popular incumbent who blows a 30-point lead to a former state legislator, you have messed up big time.

As everyone knew he would, Crist said Thursday that he would continue his Senate run as an independent.

Crist went the "political-system-is-broken" route. Why is it that, when any pol quits or goes indie these days, that phrase has become the fallback? Weren't they part of the broken system? Charlie was perfectly happy to try to trade up from Tallahassee to Washington as a member of the Republican establishment when he was way ahead.

Now he's Arlen Specter with a suntan.

Crist is trying to pull a Lieberman, to follow the path of the Connecticut senator who was rejected by his own party -- the Democrats, in this case -- and hung onto his seat as an independent. The gov undoubtedly has a broader appeal in November than in a Republican electorate that has swooned over Marco Rubio (who deserves credit for chasing the champ from the ring).

Crist's problem is this: He lacks a rationale. His changing of the stripes looks like naked self-interest. Maybe he's right, as the infamous hug with Obama made clear, that he'll support Democratic or Republican ideas depending on what he thinks his state needs. But bipartisanship isn't a big selling point these days.

The winner here may be the media, which get to cover a potentially exciting three-way race even when the northern weather turns chilly this fall. Assuming, that is, that Crist stays competitive with Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek. If he's really lucky, the press might cast him as the biggest comeback kid since Scott Brown.

"Gov. Charlie Crist didn't just walk away from the Republican Party Thursday -- he ran, saying he would abandon his lifelong GOP voter registration as he launches an independent and unprecedented campaign for the U.S. Senate," the Miami Herald reports.

"Left unsaid was the obvious reason for his decision: Former House Speaker Marco Rubio was poised to trounce him in the Aug. 24 Republican primary, in one of the most stunning reversals in Florida politics.

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