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Charlie Crist Expected to Run as an Independent in Florida Senate Race


Florida Governor Charlie Crist is expected to announce tomorrow that he will drop out the Republican primary for Senate against Marco Rubio and instead run as an independent.

If that does indeed come true, here are eight questions that political analysts and others will want to know next:

1. Does he describe himself as an independent Republican, or does he disavow his party? Does he brand himself like Joe Lieberman did -- someone who remains faithful to the core principles of his party but bemoans the fact that the party has gone away from him?

2. Who runs the campaign? A mass exodus of staffers are expected, and it'll be hard to find any prominent Republican or Democratic consulting firm in Florida that would take Crist on as a client. He has $7 million in the bank, which may be enough financial motivation to lure bipartisan firms into the mix. But Crist will NOT have his pick of the best consultants, and he will be losing the services of one the GOP's top pollsters, Glen Bolger.

3. Does Crist's move reconfirm people's impression that Charlie Crist looks out for Charlie Crist, and that his wishy-washiness is reason enough not to give him the benefit of the doubt?

4. What does Crist do between now and the end his term as governor? The legislature is not in session, but Crist can negotiate deals on his own, and he can issue executive orders.

5. Does Crist's decision to run as an independent keep Florida teachers on the sidelines? They'd tend to endorse the Democratic candidate, Kendrick Meek, but Crist has been a stalwart ally of Florida teachers unions, and they might reward him by staying neutral.

6. Does Crist peel off a few percentage points worth of black and Hispanic voters from Meek and Rubio? This sounds like a crass way to put it, but consider: Crist is well liked by black voters in the state, and he'll certainly make a strong play for Puerto Rican-Americans in Central Florida -- not Rubio's natural constituency. If Crist keeps independent white voters in play and does enough peeling, he's in a good position.

7. Do Obama's approval ratings in the state rise or fall? They're in the high forties now -- just a few points below his election percentage and higher than in other states.

8. How does Rubio resist the forces that will pull him to the right? He's certainly an extremely dexterous politician, but he has yet to deal with Crist as an independent foil.

More on the Florida Senate race from

Rubio Files Papers; Crist Decision Comes Thursday
Charlie Crist: How Would He Do as an Independent?
Charlie Crist Pulls TV Ads, Increasing Speculation About Campaign's Future

The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder is CBS News' chief political consultant. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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