With Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist expected to formally announce late Thursday that he will run for the Senate as an independent, GOP leaders made clear they would do their best to starve him of campaign funds.
At a Monitor sponsored breakfast for reporters, Senator John Cornyn of Texas, Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) said, “I certainly will request the money that I donated to his campaign from my leadership PAC back.”
Senator Cornyn added that, “people have already asked for their money back and I expect that to continue. I think in addition to seeing his coffers depleted by having to return money, I think his ability to raise money as an independent will be dramatically down.” Governor Crist has $7 million in the bank and is not legally obligated to return the funds.
Crist is dropping out of a Republican primary with former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio. Recent polls show Crist losing the primary badly while having a fighting chance in a three-way general election fight with US Rep Kendrick Meek, the Democratic candidate.
Cornyn said NRSC officials and others have suggested that he drop out of the Senate race this year and run in 2012 against Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. “Staying in the primary and dropping out and running in 2012 are much more preferable than running as an Independent because I think his future electoral prospects are irreparably damaged by his deciding now to run as an Independent,” Cornyn said.
There is a lesson for him Crist’s sagging political fortunes, Cornyn admitted. He had asked Crist to run for the Florida Senate seat after former Governor Jeb Bush declined to run. “In this political environment, it is not necessarily helpful for candidates running in the states to have the national party chairman endorse them. I think more than any time I have seen in the recent past, instead of a contract for America, voters want a contract from America. They want to be listened to, not lectured to and not to have their choices made for them,” Cornyn said.
The NRSC chair declined to predict how many Senate seats he expected Republicans to pick up in 2010. The current Senate line-up is 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans, and 2 Independents. “ I would point out that in every seat being vacated by a retiring Republican, we are currently ahead. And in eight out of 10 Democratically held seats, our candidates lead the probable Democratic nominee,” Cornyn said. “ So it has been a huge change as we all know since January of 2009 when I took this job. We had the wind at our face, a strong headwind and now I feel like we have the wind at our back.”