With Friday being the final deadline by which current Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist would need to declare his candidacy as an independent, it looks like Crist is getting his ducks in a row. The St. Petersburg Times' The Buzz is reporting that Crist is telling his top donors that he will announce his independent candidacy at a press conference tomorrow. This officially makes the open Florida senate race a three-way between Republican Macro Rubio, Democrat Kendrick Meek, and Independent Charlie Crist.
Governor Crist had planned to seek the senate as a Republican, but it has grown increasingly clear that he would never be able to beat Rubio in the closed Republican primary. Recent Quinnipac polling had Crist trailing Rubio by over 20 points in the primary.
While Crist probably stood no chance of winning the Republican primary, he is currently in better shape in a three-way race. That same poll had Crist in the lead in the three-way contest, but with all candidates separated by single digits. How Crist will fair without the institutional support of the party is an open question, and as a three-way race, the election becomes potentially anyone's game.
Another Republican scalp by a conservative primary challenger
Crist is not the first prominent Republican forced out of the party by a conservative primary challenger. Pat Toomey's primary challenge effectively scared long-time Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter into switching parties last year.
Specter and Crist might not be the only big name Republicans to fall victim to conservative primary challenger. In Utah, Senator Bob Bennett is in real danger of losing his party's nomination at the state convention next month because he has been viewed as insufficiently conservative. This is partly due to his previous support for a health insurance individual mandate. Even the most recent Republican Presidential nominee, John McCain, is in a very difficult primary battle.
It begs the question, just how many prominent incumbent Republicans will fall due to a conservative rebellion within the party before November?