On the same day that Marco Rubio announced he raked in a whopping $3.6 million in first quarter, Charlie Crist offered the latest signal yet that he may drop out of the Republican primary and run as an independent. Crist is "making noise about a possible veto of the bill that abolishes teacher tenure and tying teacher pay to test scores," the St. Petersburg Times reports.
Crist said he "would absolutely agree" that he is now setting himself apart from the Republican-controlled Legislature, saying: "If there are things that are happening that you don't think are in the best interest of the people of Florida, you know, I stand up for them, and that's what I'm doing," Crist said.
The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Thomas adds context: "Charlie goes nuclear on Republicans"
[Crist] vetoed a political fund raising bill sought by legislative Republicans. He has joined the call for a federal investigation into abuse of the state party’s AMEX.
He has pledged to veto an insurance regulation bill sought by Republicans.
And now in a major “in your face” to Jeb Bush and state party chairman John Thrasher, he says he may veto a merit pay bill for teachers, along with an end to tenure. Bush is the driving force behind this bill, and has enlisted Sen. Thrasher, a longtime ally.
If Crist carries through with the veto threat, Jeb will endorse Marco in short order and Charlie will have no friends left in the party’s hierarchy. That means no money, no endorsements, no nothing. His odds of winning in August will go from real slim to less than none barring some major revelation about Marco.
After veering to the right, Crist is returning to his populist roots. I can’t help but think he is headed for an indendent run for Senate. He’ll certainly have 160,000 teacher votes locked up.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Rubio leading Crist by 25.4 points. Crist has until April 30 to decide whether he'll run in the Republican primary.
Update: From the St. Pete Times:
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," the governor 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."