WASHINGTON (CNN) - Score a big one for John Cornyn.
The Texas senator and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee Tuesday reeled in a big catch as popular GOP Florida Gov. Charlie Crist announced he'll forgo a re-election bid and instead run for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Mel Martinez.
"The challenges that Florida faces are not just Florida's challenges, they are national issues and as a result of that I believe I can best serve the people of Florida if they're willing to allow me as their next United States Senator," Crist said Tuesday morning.
Minutes after Crist's announcement, Cornyn quickly put out a statement saying "the National Republican Senatorial Committee will provide our full support to ensure that he is elected the next United States Senator from Florida."
About an hour later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also backed Crist, yet another sign that national Republicans want to avoid a potentially fractious GOP primary in the Sunshine State.
Crist will face former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in the Republican primary. A Quinnipiac poll released last month indicated Crist commanded a lead over the more conservative and much less-known Rubio in a hypothetical matchup, but there are concerns that a primary battle could turn ugly. Rubio was quick to denounce Crist's entrance into the race Tuesday.
Cornyn was quite blunt about who he's backing. "While I believe Marco Rubio has a very bright future within the Republican Party, Charlie Crist is the best candidate in 2010 to ensure that we maintain the checks and balances that Floridians deserve in the United States Senate," he said.
"Crist is the big fish that national Republicans have been looking for," Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report.
While Cornyn landed his big fish in Florida, he let one get away in Pennsylvania, where Republican Sen. Arlen Specter has switched parties and will now run for re-election next year as a Democrat.
Many in the GOP were hoping that former popular Gov. Tom Ridge would run, but the moderate Republican announced last week he would be skipping the race. A recent poll of Pennyslvania voters suggested that Ridge would have a better chance of beating Specter than the Republican candidate already in the race, conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey.
The Democrats currently control 59 seats in the Senate (including 57 Democrats and two independents, Lieberman of Connecticut and Saunders of Vermont, who caucus with the Democrats). There are 40 Republicans in the Senate. Nearly seven months after election day, there's still no resolution in the battle between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken for the Senate seat from Minnesota.
If Franken wins, he would give the Democrats 60 votes in the Senate, enough to bust Republican attempts to filibuster - a move by the minority party to bring the chamber to a standstill and prevent the passage of legislation.
The Republicans would like to make a dent in the Democratic Party's lead in the Senate, but that may prove difficult next year. Republicans are defending half of the 36 seats up for election in the 2010 cycle, including five being vacated by retiring Republicans.
Besides Martinez, Republican Sens. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Kit Bond of Missouri, George Voinovich of Ohio, and Sam Brownback of Kansas, are passing on re-election bids.
And two Republican senators running for re-election, Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Richard Burr of North Carolina, could face tough fights to keep their jobs.
But the Democrats may also have some rough spots heading into next year's midterms. Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut is fighting for his political life right now.
New Sens. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, who was appointed to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Michael Bennet of Colorado, who was appointed to replace Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, could face tough elections in 2010.
Then there's embattled Sen. Roland Burris of Illinois, who was picked by his state's now-impeached former governor Rod Blagojevich to replace President Barack Obama.
Burris has not declared that he'll run for re-election. If he does he'll face primary challenges. The Republicans are hoping that Rep. Mark Kirk will run against whom ever emerges as the Democratic contender.
Finally, there's Delaware, where Sen. Ted Kaufman - appointed to replace Vice President Joe Biden - has declared that he won't run next year. Polls in Delaware suggest that Republican Rep. Michael Castle would beat Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden in a hypothetical matchup. Biden is the son of Vice President Biden.
But overall, the climate right now benefits the Democrats.
"Democrats continue to benefit from a favorable political landscape, solid poll numbers from President Obama, and generally successful Senate candidate fundraising," says Rothenberg.
Of course: as anyone who covers politics will tell you, November 2010 is a long, long, long way away from "right now."
He'll win this..he has the first ingredient of the populus..RESPECT..
and add in stamia, and cause..he is a winner already.
Well I won't be voting for Charlie. He used the people of the state of Florida as a stepping stone and I won't vote for his next step. He's just using us to get to the White House and he has shown he really doesn't care about us. He made all kinds of promises and then went back on all of them. He promised he wouldn't let insurance companies drop homeowners and keep insuring autos and guess what. They did it and he let them. The state is in a mess and he's going to run from the capital, before it gets worse. As the commercial went. Sorry Charlie.
We need more Republicans in congress. If the stimulus bill that passed despite not a single vote from House GOPers and with only 3 Republican senators voting for it isn't proof that the crazies aren't running the assylum than I don't know what is. We need more conservative voices of reason to drown out the shrieks of the radicals who are destroying our nation.
Charlie Christ is a republican, Therefore he will never have my vote unless he leaves that useless party.
Charlie, go ahead and run and let Rushbo and Dickbo campaign for you since they are doing such a bang up job of attracting new converts to their cause.
Big fish or sucker? He's more like a moderate democrat than a conservative right-wing bigot.
Maybe he had to adapt (read that as "moderate").
This one will end up stinking up the town too, just like all the other [R] fish have.
As a patriotic Texan, I voted against George W. Bush 4 times. Twice when he ran for governor and twice when he ran for president. I have also voted against Sen. Cornyn every time he ran also, and I will vote against him every time he runs in the future. Sen. Cornyn is the epitome of Conservatism. He is against anything and everything, especially any effort to solve the nation's problem. He is Senator No.
His mealy-mouthed statement about maintaining "the checks and balances that Floridians deserve in the United States Senate" is insincere, to put it politely. What he means is, Conservatives need 41 votes so they can block anything and everything that the Obama Administration tries to do. If Obama fails – and the American people suffer – then Obama might lose his effort to be re-elected in 2012. This is the only concern that Conservatives have: more money and more power for themselves (and less money and less power for all of us).
Do not be hornswaggled by his high-sounding double-speak about checks and balances. Conservatives care nothing for the Constitution – only money and power for themselves.
This may fall under the heading of "be careful what you wish for." Governor Christ is a "Specter Republican" - someone who doesn't toe Rush's party line and won't be a reliable button-pusher when party apparatchiks tell him to. That may be bad for doctrinaire Republicans but it's good for the country to have people who don't think that the answer to national problems is written in advance in party playbooks.
"GOP lands big fish for 2010"????
How so? He's a moderate republican who has backed Obama on the stimulus package. Plus, if he wins, he will be replacing a Republican Senator. In essense, the Repubs are celebrating not losing a senate seat.
CNN, please post.
Crist is not well liked in Floida and will lose this election. Even in conservative NE Florida he is going to lose. Read the comments on jacksonville.com about this announcement – even in JAX he is not liked or respected. If a republican can't win in Jacksonville, they are not going to win Florida. Forget it Charlie. You have reached your level of incompetence.
RIGHT..............lol.............GOP continue doing things in the same fashion you've done for the past say 8 years and this "big-fish" you will find isn't as "big" as all the other fish in ocean.
Yes, the Repubs will probably keep this seat. But score one for John Cornyn? Come on. His big score is keeping a seat in Republican hands using a moderate who is disliked by the far-right of his party? This is more like treading water.
This announcement smacks of the blind leading the blind and losers backing losers. Get a grip Republicans! The public isn't buying what you are selling.
It's a stinkfish!!!
I don't know who is MORE delusional Cantor of Cornyn.
Crist is the BIG FISH of 2010? Are you serious? If that is what the Republican's call BIG FISH, talk about serious denial. Crist hasn't even BEGUN to get vetted on a national venue. I can't wait for the vulchers to pick away at Charlie Crist's record.
We'll see how truly conservative Florida is if Crist can beat Marco Rubio in the primary then we will know Florida is just a RINO state!
Crist must have signed on with The Club for Change instead of the New Council for a New America. That means money. Crist can bring in the donations and has a chance to help the Party nationally. It might work if the Republicans had some kind of viable platform other than "They suck!" Does Rush know about all this? Don't want Party leadership kept in the dark.
To Mississippi Mike,
You are right. The crazies are no longer running the assylum. We voted the shrieking extremists out of office and put in some level headed honest folk that are doing the business of the Nation and not just lining their own pockets and those of Halliburton.
At least it's a moderate like Crist.
The GOP is grasping at straws for any kind of good press or potential candidates on which to place their bets; but they should not be surprised when this Big Fish gets a "Sorry Charlie" in the not too distant future.
McConnel and the rest of those guys are running scared. they're afraid that Dick Cheney has marginilized so many moderate republicans that they may actually switch parties. Keep up the good work Dick. As for Crist, I appreciate you supporting the stimulus bill, but I'll choose a democrat over a republican any day of the week.
You named it right ,FISH But in the real world after three days Fish Smell and you will find out like the millions of Floridians that that old adage still prevails. Wait until this game plays out. Watch for Martinez to resign so Crist can appoint himself then his present Lt Gov is a big time loser and could not get voted into any job. How Lucky Martinez is around and just might be asked to run for Governor. Act two coming soon.
Are they serious? Ha ha ha ha ha ha......The republicans are fish dumped from the ocean and flipping around like idiots.
Let's see a Republican running for a Republican Senate seat in what can be called a Republican state. The Republicans have landed a big fish, hate to tell anyone one but if Crist does win it another nail in the coffin and if he does win, well whats the upset? Seems to me nothing to gain and everything to lose.