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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Politics

Kimberly Schwandt

Washington, DC

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Crist to Run as Independent in FL Sen Race

April 28, 2010 - 1:00 PM | by: Kimberly Schwandt

Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist has decided he will run as an independent in the race to fill the Florida U.S. Senate seat, Crist allies tell Fox News. The official announcement is scheduled for Thursday at 5pm ET in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Senate campaign has been rough and tumble for Crist, he was once the front-runner — but in recent months began trailing his GOP opponent, Tea Party favorite and former Florida State Speaker Marco Rubio. Rubio has been able to turn a 30-point deficit in the polls into a 30 point lead over Crist.

Crist has said that under no circumstance would he drop out of the race, saying he will do what is best for the voters of Florida. The governor says Republicans in Washington want him to stay in the Republican party but voters in Florida have told him they want him to run as an independent.

His campaign and the governor’s office have not officially confirmed anything, however this move by Crist has made internal communications difficult because some staff are unlikely to continue to work with Crist as an independent candidate.

The governor is expected to use much of Thursday for courtesy calls to supporters, allies and some Republican officials nationwide. Close advisers expect him to say tomorrow that he looks forward to caucusing with Republicans but that is not a certainty, there are still some issues being worked out and discussed.

Rubio has also been gaining momentum recently by clinching endorsements from big name Republicans including former Vice President Dick Cheney, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former 2008 presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

“Washington is broken and Congress is already overflowing with politicians who need pollsters to tell them what to think. It certainly doesn’t need another one. Now more than ever America needs leaders with the strength of conviction. That is why I am proud to endorse Marco Rubio,” Cheney said in a statement last week.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who initially supported Crist, indicated Sunday that if Crist switched to run as an independent, he would no longer support him.

“I would be troubled if the governor decided to run as an independent. I think that would be a serious problem. And he would certainly not have my support and not have the support of any other Republicans that I know,” McConnell said on Fox News Sunday.

The governor has been open about his consideration of switching parties, but GOP officials were pushing him to drop out rather than split votes among the Republican party — and give Democratic nominee U.S. Kendrick Meek an advantage.

On the main page of Crist’s campaign website, there are no visible signs of Republican affiliation. His bio still calls him a “common-sense conservative.”

The Republican Party of Florida has taken down Crist’s name from most of its official website. He is named in the elected officials section, but has been pulled off in other areas, according to a party official.

Crist had until Friday at noon to pick his party.

Fox News’ Carl Cameron and Serafin Gomez contributed to this report.

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