06/11/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Charlie Crist Is Not Guaranteed Florida's Senate Seat

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

Both Politico and the Miami Herald are reporting that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist will announce on Tuesday that he will be a candidate for Senate in 2010 for the seat from which unpopular Republican Mel Martinez is retiring.

This could very well be a case for Republicans of the old adage "Be careful what you wish for." Crist currently enjoys strong poll numbers:

Republican Primary Poll

Quinnipiac 4/16/09

Gov. Charlie Crist 54

Rep. Vern Buchanan 8

Fmr. Speaker Marco Rubio 8

Fmr. Speaker Allan Bense 2

Undecided 25

General Election Poll

Match-ups: Crist v. Dems

Strategic Vision 2/12/09

Crist 57, Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio 29

Crist 58, State Senator Dan Gelber 27

Crist 58, Rep. Ron Klein 24

Crist 60, Rep. Kendrick Meek 26

These numbers, which look insurmountable at first glance, do not accurately reflect the story moving forward. As has been mentioned before, there is growing discontent with Crist among conservatives. Nationally, the conservative Weekly Standard is promoting Crist's primary challenger, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, as the Republican Obama; also, the conservative Club for Growth has already started a cheering section for Rubio against Crist:

But Rubio could also pick up some powerful supporters in the primary. Following his announcement Tuesday, the anti-tax Club for Growth, which is known for its ability to drive fundraising for candidates it supports, released a statement praising Rubio's entry into the race.

Rubio's "fiscally responsible, pro-growth approach in the State Capitol stands in stark contrast with other elements of the state government, led by Charlie Crist," club President Chris Chocola said.

Meanwhile, within the state borders of Florida, conservatives are downright displeased with what they see as Crist being not conservative enough:

Florida Republican Party circles are hearing increasing talk of conservative dissatisfaction with Gov. Charlie Crist and a possible primary challenge if he runs for the U.S. Senate next year. ...

Some conservatives, never happy with Crist's emphasis on racial diversity, environmental regulation and populist willingness to take on big business, are now saying it openly.

Rubio is already fomenting this sentiment with direct shots at Crist:

"If you agree with Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe on some of these issues, you might as well become a Democrat,'' said former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, a Republican who is likely to run for the Senate, whether or not Crist does.

Rubio also potentially has a big arrow in his FL-GOP quiver: former Gov. Jeb Bush. Rubio is a Bush protege and it has been rumored that Bush might even endorse Rubio over Crist. Jeb Bush's son, George P. Bush, has not been short on criticism of Crist:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is only a "light" version of a Democrat, former Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) son claimed Saturday.

"There's some in our party that want to assume that government is the answer to all of our problems," Bush said at a meeting of young Republicans, as reported by the Orlando News. "You know who I'm talking about," he added, referencing Crist.

After the speech, Bush said Crist is perhaps becoming more of a "D light" politician, not adequately in line with Republican politics.

Expect Rubio v. Crist to be a much closer contest than most expect. As a result, even if Crist emerges with the Republican nomination, it will come at the end of a bruising and costly battle. And Democrats are ready with a line of attack against Crist should he become the GOP nominee. Crist is bolting from the Governor's office after only one term (and plenty of days off), and leaving Florida's budgetary well-being in far worse shape than he found it - the focus of the DSCC's first ad buy of the 2010 cycle:

Awaiting candidate Crist is a divisive, damaging, and expensive primary against a more conservative opponent, following by a general election against a Democratic Party ready to pounce that is led by an extremely popular President. Crist's numbers may look good right now, but there is every reason to expect troubles ahead for Crist.

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