Fla. governor Crist to seek Senate seat
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Popular GOP Governor Charlie Crist is passing on an easy reelection bid and instead will run for the US Senate, a decision that excites Washington Republicans who desperately want to avoid further losses in 2010.
Crist, 52, instantly becomes the front-runner in the Senate race. He has maintained approval ratings in the high 60 percent range despite the state's gloomy economy, budget cuts, a high foreclosure rate, and the highest unemployment since 1975.
But the Senate race is by no means a cakewalk. Crist faces a challenge from former House Speaker Marco Rubio, a solid conservative who is questioning Crist's commitment to Republican principles.
And Democrats will make Crist a top target as they try to maintain what's likely to be a 60-seat majority in the Senate, the number they need to overcome GOP filibusters and help pass President Obama's legislative agenda.
"My fear is that the governor's Senate candidacy is not going to be as smooth and effortless as it seems at this point," said Roger Stone, a Republican political consultant.
Crist kept his announcement low-key, issuing a press release instead of scheduling a news conference.
But he guaranteed plenty of questions from reporters by e-mailing the statement just before three state-related media events.
Top Republicans immediately lined up behind Crist. Senator John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, endorsed him, as did Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader, and Lamar Alexander, Senate Republican conference chairman.
Rubio, though, won't go away, and he made it clear he plans to criticize Crist as being too close to Democrats on fiscal issues.