Hounded by conservative activists as too liberal, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is being advised by some close supporters to abandon his lagging Republican primary bid for a U.S. Senate seat and run instead as an independent.
Mr. Crist’s campaign issued a statement last week saying the governor would run in the Republican primary and describing the talk of an independent bid as “baseless rumors.”
Still, some advisers see room for him to take another course. Mr. Crist is trailing badly in public-opinion surveys against state House Speaker Marco Rubio, who has become a darling of conservative activists nationally.
Florida law doesn’t give Mr. Crist the flexibility that enabled Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to win election in 2006 as a third-party candidate after losing the Democratic primary. Mr. Crist must decide by April 30 whether to seek the Republican nomination or to appear instead on the general-election ballot with no party affiliation.
An important sign of Mr. Crist’s aims could come this week: He must decide by Friday whether to veto a teacher merit-pay bill supported by prominent conservatives in the party.
“If you were to put a gun to my head, I’d say he’s running as an independent,” said a GOP strategist who serves as an informal adviser to the governor.