Republican and Democratic Senate campaign chiefs refused to say Thursday whether they would accept Florida Gov. Charlie Crist into their party’s caucus if he wins his Senate race, a decision the independent candidate will have to make if he is victorious in November.
Once a Republican, Crist left the Party in April so he would not have to contend with Tea Party-backed candidate Marco Rubio in the GOP primary. Crist is in a three-way battle against Rubio and Florida Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek, and has yet to announce which party he will side with if he wins.
But when asked if Crist would be “welcomed,” campaign heads from both parties laughed and wouldn’t even entertain the thought.
“Charlie Crist will not be sworn in as the new U.S. state senator in January,” said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Republicans and independents I think will move toward Marco Rubio and leave Governor Crist without much support.”
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey offered a similar answer, shrugging away the possibility that Crist would even have the opportunity to make a decision.
“Governor Crist is not doing that well in the polls and I think when people are looking for a real choice they will increasingly turn to Kendrick [Meek],” Menendez said. “So I’m not expecting Governor Crist coming.”
There are currently just two Independents in the Senate, Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom caucus with Democrats. Although most observers predict the Democrats will keep control of the Senate after the November midterms, few doubt that Republicans will have a net gain of seats, which means Crist’s choice could have a major impact on the face of the chamber. It is somewhat surprising to see leaders in both parties write off his candidacy so close to the elections since they could conceivably be courting him come November.
The Real Clear Politics Average of recent polls currently shows Rubio ahead of Crist and Meek by a margin of 13 points and 21 points, respectively.
Jessica Puente contributed to this report.