The Miami Herald reports:
. . . Charlie Crist bucked fellow Republicans and vetoed an elections bill he was expected to sign — and the same day he reversed course and hinted he might veto a teacher tenure bill favored by Jeb Bush and other Republican leaders. On top of that, Crist plans to call the Legislature into special session this summer to overhaul state ethics laws — an issue Republican leadership has avoided this year.
It all fed a surge in speculation that Crist is positioning himself to drop out of the Republican primary and run as an independent.
“I tended to think, `He isn’t going to run as an independent.’ But with every passing day, I become more convinced he’ll run as an independent,” said GOP consultant David Johnson of Tallahassee. “You’ve got several more pieces of legislation. He vetoed the leadership funds [elections] bill. And if he vetoes teacher tenure and there are others he vetoes that his Republican colleagues want, then it’s clear which way he’s heading.”
. . .
Crist has previously denied he’s thinking about running as an independent, and on Wednesday he brushed off the question. “I’m focused on the session,” he said. “I’m focused on these bills that are pending and coming up shortly. That’s where my focus is, there will be time for other things later.”
Under Florida law, Crist has to declare whether he’s running for the Republican nomination or as an independent by April 30. Unlike Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, he could not lose the GOP primary and then declare himself an independent or third-party candidate.
Under the independent-run scenario, Crist could remain a registered Republican but file paperwork declaring himself running as an independent, or no party affiliation candidate. He could keep most of the money he has raised to date and use it for the general election, rather than a primary election. He wouldn’t even be required to comply with refund requests from donors.
Then the major U.S. Senate candidates would likely be Democrat Kendrick Meek of Miami, Republican Rubio and Crist. Garnering just 35 percent of the vote could be enough to win.
Meanwhile, Democratic opponent Kendrick Meek is calling the election a “referendum” on the tea-party movement:
“When you have the Club for Growth, CPAC, other groups, [Dick] Armey, [Rush] Limbaugh who lives in Florida and a number of other individuals of influence as it relates to the ultra-conservative community, all on one side of the ball saying this is what we want,” Meek said, “that means that moderate Republicans, Independents and Democrats are going to have to choose and say this is what we want, and this is how we want it, and we do not want to federalize someone who is going to carry this country into the direction it was in two or three years ago.”
UPDATE: The Crist camp says no dice:
“To put these rumors to rest once and for all, as we have said countless times before, Governor Crist is running for the United States Senate as a Republican. He will not run as an Independent or as a No Party Affiliation.