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Is Charlie Crist Better Off Dropping Out Or Running As An Independent?

Rubio leads by 29 points in GOP primary.

12:14 PM, Apr 12, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The latest Rasmussen poll shows Marco Rubio crushing Charlie Crist 58 percent to 29 percent in the GOP primary--Crist has dropped six points in the past month. So what's the Florida governor to do?

Is Charlie Crist Better Off Dropping Out Or Running As An Independent?

Sorry, Charlie

1. He could remain in the GOP primary and face almost certain defeat. Crist's public policy attacks on Rubio, such as the accusation that Rubio supported the biggest tax increase in history, have failed because they are not true. His character attacks regarding Rubio's expenditures have failed because they are seriously exaggerated and Crist is associated with lavish spending as well. Crist may think that if Rubio can turn a 30-point deficit into a 30-point lead, there's no reason he can't do the same thing. But Rubio's surge is due entirely to the fact that no one knew who he was at the outset. Now GOP voters know Rubio and Crist, and they like Rubio. If Crist's attacks haven't stuck by now, they're not going to stick before the August primary.

2. Crist could run as an independent who would caucus with the Republican party. Crist has repeatedly promised he won't do this; he has until the April 30 filing deadline to make a final decision. His odds of victory are slightly better than the GOP primary, but he would very likely lose in the general election as well, and his career would be over after that. Both the Republican base and establishment would despise him for his disloyalty and turning a pretty easy Senate win into a costly three-way race.

3. Which is why Crist's best bet might be dropping out of the primary and running for Senate in 2012 against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. But doesn't the Republican base already hate Crist, so why would they back him in 2012? Actually only 15 percent of Republicans have a "very unfavorable" view of Crist. Republican voters clearly prefer Rubio to Crist, but they would obviously prefer Crist to Nelson.

None of these choices are terribly appealing for Crist. I don't believe that Crist's ego will permit him to choose the third option, but it's probably the only way he will ever hold elective office again.

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