Crist won’t get free passage out of the Republican Party


Florida Governor Charlie Crist is in the midst of what looks like a losing primary campaign to be the Republican nominee for US Senate this year. We will soon know if he is going to cede the nomination to opponent Marco Rubio and run as an independent. But a watchdog is on the case – Club for Growth – and it’s prepared to put a big dent in Crist’s wallet.

CFG will do what it did when Sen. Arlen Specter (R– no make that D-PA) switched parties. It will mount a campaign charging that campaign donations made to Crist as a Republican must be refunded to any person who does not wish to support him as an indy. The latest word out of Florida is that Crist will formally announce on Thursday that he will withdraw from the GOP primary to run as an independent. 

Specter went along with such requests, and according to CQ-Roll Call, it cost him over $1M in campaign funds.

Specter, also up for election this year, made his decision last summer in the face of a vigorous challenge for the Republican nod from Pat Toomey, who happens to be a past president of CFG (story here: Specter, who often gets general election help from independent voters, could expect no help from them in a Republicans-only primary battle, and resorted to the party switch.

He has had a good bit of time to replenish his warchest. Crist will not have that luxury. He’ll have to hope that a significant percentage of his donors will continue to support him in a three-way race without the benefit of the Republican Party brand.

Update: word is coming out of Florida that Crist is informing key financial backers that he will indeed pursue an independent path to the US Senate. The formal announcement is expected to come 4/30/10.