The Corner

Crist: Lieberman Was Right, ‘I’m Much Happier Now’

EXCLUSIVE — Florida Gov. Charlie Crist tells National Review Online that a conversation with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) helped to convince him to run for U.S. Senate as an independent. “[Lieberman] told me that [going independent] is the most liberating thing,” Crist says. “He was right. I’m much happier now, to be perfectly candid.”

Crist tells us that he plans to run a “positive campaign” against his two main opponents, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek. “I’ll be a happy warrior,” he promises. But will he try to tie Rubio to the Republican Party of Florida’s financial troubles, which are currently under federal scrutiny? “That investigation is in the hands of others, as it should be,” he says. “That’s not my focus.”

If he gets elected to the Senate, Crist says he will “caucus with anyone who helps Florida. There will be different issues on different days and I will stand with anybody who will help my state.”

“The people are fed up, for the most part, with both parties,” Crist continues. “They’re fed up with leaders who only subscribe to what the parties want. There are factions in both parties out there. If you want a candidate who is tied to a party faction, then you can vote for Speaker Rubio or Congressman Meek. In Florida, I believe the people want someone to think of Florida and the country first. I get that. I’m going to speak to them from the heart and give them a choice. It’s not that complicated.”

Will the former GOP candidate still reach out to conservatives? “Absolutely,” Crist says. “Listen, I still believe in less taxing, less spending, and more freedom. That’s where Florida is. If you’re a commonsense, fiscal conservative then I’m your candidate.”

What about immigration? Does he agree with Arizona’s new law? “What Arizona did is wrong,” Crist says. “I’m the grandson of a Greek immigrant. The notion that you pull over ‘suspect’ people and demand their papers is not American. That’s strange. That’s not what America is supposed to be about. What we need to do is secure the border, agree to not have amnesty, and create a pathway to citizenship that is earned. President Bush, to his credit, fought for that, as did former senator Mel Martinez.”

What about the recent political abandonment of his former adviser Sen. George LeMieux (R., Fla.), the man Crist appointed to the upper chamber? “I’m saddened by it, but that’s part of the deal in politics. You have to rise above it. I don’t have ill will toward a soul.”

Crist, who spoke with NRO from the Gulf Coast, where he is dealing with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, says energy will also be a key issue in the Senate race. His stance: “We can’t drill.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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