Any moment now Florida Governor Charlie Crist is expected to announce that he's running as an independent for Senate. A crowd full of reporters and supporters have gathered at Straub Park in St. Pete, Fl to hear his announcement. We're watching CNN where Wolf Blitzer says they'll be covering it live, with immediate reaction from Kendrick Meek and Marco Rubio. If you're not infront of a TV right now, it's live streaming here
Well it's official. Crist is running as an independent.
5:43 - Keep in mind this was supposed to start at 5pm, had been pushed back until 5:30, and hasn't started yet. Is someone getting cold feet?
5:45 - Ah, he just came out. James Carville is jabbering on about oil still on CNN. We might have to switch over to a live feed to get the uninterrupted feed.
5:48 - Someone speaking, we're not sure who, pretty much confirmed he's running as an independent and has a "right to change his mind." He also said he'd, personally, even hug Obama's dog out of respect, and that doesn't mean he agrees with him. But honestly, Bo is adorable. Why would anyone not hug him?
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5:52 - According to this tweet
, there's a lot of people holding "Democrats 4 Crist" signs in the audience. That's not good news for Kendrick Meek.
5:53 - Decision to run as independent "says more about our nation and our state then it does about me."
5:54 -" I haven't supported ideas because it's a republican idea or a democrat idea, but because they're a good idea, for the people! For the People!" Yep, he's channeling populace rage.
5:56 - He's now highlighting the issues that set him apart from Republicans (stopping off shore drilling, extending voting hours in the 2008 election, vetoing SB6). A big shift from tauting his conservative record.
5:58 - People! People! People! People! People! People!
6:00 - That's it. It's official. No word on who he'd caucus with or if he's going to give back GOP donor money.
6:02 - Stick with us. Marco Rubio and Kendrick Meek are going to give their reactions soon.
6:06 - In the meantime let's take a quick run around the internet to get some instant reaction. Earlier we read the liberal response from the Nation
that claims Rubio isn't even the most moderate of moderate republicans, and ideologically the heir of George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole. They also say Crist's decision is the (temporary) nail in the coffin of Ronald Regan's vision of a "big tent" party.
What makes the Floridian appealing is not so much his moderation as his relative sanity.
Crist has refused to go off the ideological deep end that has claimed so many formerly mainstream conservative Republicans -- making the party's U.S. House and Senate caucuses over as "party of no" preserves of reaction rather than functional engagement with the governing process.
6:13 - Jeb Bush has spoken out and it's not nice
: : "I am not surprised. This decision is not about policy or principles. It is about what he believes is in his political self-interest." We expect his official endorsement of Rubio any day now.
6:17 - RNC chief Michael Steele's reaction
: ""Governor Charlie Crist, however, will not be that candidate. Over the years, he has served this party well, which is why his decision to run as an Independent is so disappointing. To be sure, he left this party. This party did not leave him. His decision will in no way impede our path to victory in Florida."
6:21 - Kendrick Meek is supposed to be on CNN soon, but here's his tweet reaction
: "We're about fighting for Fla, not personal ambition (CC) or imposing an extreme philosophical agenda on Fla (MR)."
6:24 - By the way, on the ballot Crist will be no higher than 6th. Meaning Rubio and Meek's names will be listed first, some wacky third partiers, and then Crist.
Given the acrimony, some speculate an independent Crist might consider a flirtation with Democrats who would welcome a convert, especially one representing a key presidential battleground state.
"They could offer him not only decent committee assignments but real power," said Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute.
Cook Political Report senior editor Jennifer Duffy notes Crist would be "smart to leave open the question of who he would caucus with. It gives him leverage."
6:28 - Kendrick Meek is on CNN. He's saying Rubio is out of touch with Florida, and "very far right." He refuses to say who he's more concerned with, and says he's "running against two republicans" and says Crist is still "The Republican Governor of Florida" with a night job as an independent senate candidate.
6:31 - Oh, hey it's Kendrick Meek's mother's birthday. Happy birthday, Carrie!
6:33 - Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), John Cornyn (R., Texas), Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.), Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and John Thune (R., S.D.) released a joint statement withdrawing support
from Crist and thrusting it on Marco: "Marco is an emerging star who represents limited government, lower taxes, and free markets, and we are confident he will be the next United States Senator from Florida." Ouch!
6:37 - That's enough from us tonight. We'll be back with more, much more in the morning. Or maybe tonight if anything huge happens.