Marco Rubio officially running for Senate seat
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05/05/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Former House Speaker Marco Rubio became the first major Republican candidate to declare announce his intention to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated next year by Mel Martinez.

Rubio made his announcement via video on his website. Rubio said his campaign would not be negative, but for promoting ideas like tax reform, and not just tax cuts. And he alluded to the expectant entrance in the race of the most popular politician in the state, Gov. Charlie Crist.

Aubrey Jewett is a professor of political science at the University of Central Florida. He says it may be tough, but he thinks Rubio has a fair shot in a GOP primary race against Crist.

Since his election 2½ years ago over Jim Davis, Crist has had unusually strong approval ratings, in part because of his moderate stances that have brought Independents and Democrats to his side. Before rumours began circulating that he was contemplating a run for the Senate, which he still may not do, no Democrats of any note had indicated any interest in running against Crist for governor.

Although Crist’s popularity with the Florida public is still strong, it clearly is not among lawmakers in Tallahassee, many of whom from his own party who have been disappointed by his lack of leadership on key issues that he himself championed.

USF Political Science Professor Aubrey Jewett said every politician running for re-election is always confronted with his shortcomings, and Crist will be no different, despite the popularity rankings.

Earlier this year, a Palm Beach County Republican wanted the party to censure Crist for a variety of perceived transgressions, including his failure to support Republicans in some South Florida Congressional races last year. Crist also received thunderous criticism in some GOP quarters for his enthusiastic support for Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package earlier this year.

Jewett says if Crist does decide to join Marco Rubio in running for the Republican nomination for Senate, it will be an interesting referendum on the state GOP. Crist said he would make his announcement regarding his political future sometime this month.

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