[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/11/art.crist1.gi.jpg caption="Crist will run for Senate, sources tell CNN."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will announce Tuesday he will forgo another bid for governor and instead run for the Senate, two well placed Republican sources tell CNN.
Crist is a very popular governor in the Sunshine State and his entrance into the Senate race would take huge financial pressure off of national Republicans to help fund a campaign to save this Republican seat currently held by retiring Sen. Mel Martinez.
An April Quinnipiac Poll showed that registered Republicans would vote for Crist over former House speaker Marco Rubio, 54 percent to 8 percent, in a GOP primary. But the poll also found that more people overall and Republicans specifically would rather see Crist run for re-election as governor than seek the Senate seat.
Rubio announced his candidacy last week and is seeking to align himself with the conservative wing of the state party. Crist, who supported President Obama’s stimulus package, is considered to be more closely aligned with centrist Republicans.
Rep. Kendrick Meek, North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns and state Sen. Dan Gelber are all seeking the Democratic Senate nomination.
Crist’s interest in running for the Senate has been rumored ever since Martinez announced he would retire in 2010. Another source, close to the Crist family, said that the governor’s wife has been telling friends her husband is going to seek the Senate seat. The sources tell CNN that Crist had been waiting for the Florida legislature to gavel out of session before he made an announcement about his future political plans.
“He is the big fish that national Republicans have been looking for,” Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, said of Crist. “I think the big question is does Rubio get out of the race and how quickly would he do so?”
Rothenberg added, “You can bet that national party strategists would love to clear the field for Crist. In that case, the governor would immediately become the favorite for the fall.”
In the 2008 race for the White House, Crist endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain for the Republican nomination, and the governor was reportedly considered to be McCain’s vice presidential running mate.
CNN's Kevin Bohn, John King, Paul Steinhauser and Jessica Yellin contributed to this story.