BRADENTON – Former Republican Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, filed to change his voter registration status from NPA to Democrat last Friday, a move that most political experts feel demonstrates his intention to seek the party's nomination for the 2014 Florida gubernatorial election, against Republican incumbent Rick Scott. Crist was governor of Florida from 2007-2011, giving up the post in an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate.
Long hailed as a moderate Republican, Crist was on the short list of 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain's Vice-Presidential search. With immense popularity and high bipartisan approval ratings, the governor decided to forgo seeking a second term in order to vie for his the party's nomination in the 2010 Senate race. However, a shift in the political winds saw Crist's popularity plummet among the party's base, and it quickly became clear that former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio would likely beat him in a primary, prompting Crist to drop out and mount an independent run.
Rubio easily won the three-way race, but speculation began almost immediately that Crist could do well as a Democrat, if he ran against current Governor Rick Scott. Scott has experienced record-low popularity since narrowly winning the governorship in 2010, beating Democrat CFO Alex Sink by 1 point (about 70,000 votes), in a year when every other statewide Republican candidate won in a landslide.
Before being elected governor, Crist served in the state legislature as a Republican, tried unsuccessfully to win the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1998, and was later elected Florida's education commissioner and then attorney general. Though Crist lost his bid for the Senate in 2010, many strategists were quick to point out that he nonetheless received more votes than Democratic nominee, Congressman Kendrick Meek.
Currently, Sink is among a small handful of Florida Democrats with statewide name recognition, but many question whether she would be able to beat Scott, especially now that he has the advantage of incumbency. It remains to be seen whether the Democratic base would warm to Crist enough for him to win a primary. But with strong support from moderates and independents, as well as far more name recognition than anyone in the Florida Democratic Party, conventional wisdom says he may be their best bet in 2014.
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