All eyes on Crist as he weighs his future

04/30/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce his political future plans within the next week or so.

The popular governor would be a prohibitive favorite if he opts for re-election next year, but he has left open the possibility that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat next year being vacated by Mel Martinez.

Preparing for Crist to declare he’s running for the Senate, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has struck first, with an ad now running in South Florida.

Crist is by far the most popular elected official in the state, and will be the favorite for either office he chooses to run for in 2010. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his critics, particularly on the right.

Earlier this year, a Palm Beach County Republican named Steve Ledewitz called for Crist to be censured, after he attended a rally with President Barack Obama in Lee County to support the president's economic stimulus bill.

Ledewitz recently called again for a sensure – but says the issue has been tabled until August.

Crist has never been popular with grassroots conservatives. But in the wake of Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter switching political parties this week, in part because he could not win a GOP primary next year, but also in part because it seems the party has no room for moderates like himself, we asked Ledewitz if conservatives in Florida were in danger of alienating Republicans like Crist.

Ledewitz said one of his biggest problems with Crist is not how conservative he is, but his loyalty to the Republican Party.

When it comes to the defection of Arlen Specter, GOP Senators George Voinovich of Ohio and Orin Hatch of Utah are blaming the conservative, anti-tax group The Club For Growth.

Mark Proctor is a Republican Party political consultant in Hillsborough County. He agrees that the Republican Party nationally is adrift right now, but says that’s because in the past few years they’ve lost their way when it comes to spending.

Meanwhile, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, who may face off against Crist in a Republican Primary for Senate, will be speaking in Tampa in two weeks, at a Republican Party Hispanic fundraiser.

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