It's nearly official: Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) will bolt the GOP and run for Senate as an independent, the St. Petersburg Times
and Fox News
each report. This much-expected event will drastically shake up a top Senate race in this perennial swing state, which has become more intriguing than anybody could have imagined a year ago.
The St. Petersburg Times
reports that Crist has notified key financial backers of his decision. Crist has already announced that he will make his as-yet undisclosed decision official tomorrow, one day before the April 30 filing deadline.
The TPM Poll Average for the Republican primary
gives Marco Rubio a lead of 59.1%-27.9% over Crist, the opposite of where things were a year ago. Meanwhile, the poll average for a three-way general election
only gives Rubio a narrow lead with 33.8% of the vote, followed by an independent Crist at 27.8%, and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek with 22.5%.
Crist is expected to announce his decision at 5 p.m. tomorrow in his hometown of St. Petersburg.
Crist's decision to bolt from the GOP seems to have been in the works for weeks now. Several prominent Republicans have backed Rubio -- including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Vice President Dick Cheney, and others who already endorsed Crist have hinted that they won't support him as an independent.
The state Republican party has been prepping for Crist's possible defection too, warning its high-ranking committee members in a letter that that if a Republican runs as an independent, the "party loyalty oath" requires that members must formally revoke their support of him.