Tonight, the feds announced a formal investigation into the Republican Party of Florida's credit card issues, an investigation that reportedly will include Marco Rubio's extensive spending on the party's credit card. Press reports have suggested that a number of items on Rubio's card may could be considered personal expenses, and certainly Crist has been making this case for some time now.
Some supporters of Crist are probably hoping the news of this investigation might be his version of Doug Flutie's heroic last minute throw against Miami, but for him, his game was decided long before tonight.
Why? The grassroots GOP decided long ago that he wasn't going to be their standard bearer.
This goes back to the first post I ever wrote on this blog (and to this date, still the most read one) about Crist's historical lack of a base. As that post showed, even in Crist's most popular days, he was never embraced in the Jeb Bush way by the GOP grassroots. In fact, around the Capitol, there was never a shortage of grumbling not only about his leadership style (considered weak), but also what many on the GOP side saw as appeasement tendencies.
And Crist did little to change that opinion. He supported changing the state's policy to allow felons who had paid their debt to society to have their right to vote restored, he stood up and said he believed in the overwhelming scientific evidence supporting climate change, and when the lines were long at early voting sites in October of 2008, he signed an order extending early voting. To make matters worse, on that last one, he only talked to one legislator first, Dan Gelber. So when he hugged the President, it wasn't the first mistake, it was the last straw.
In retrospect, Marco Rubio could have been Dean Cannon, Jeff Atwater, Adam Hasner or Mike Harridopolis and the result would have been the same. Someone other than Crist was going to win the nomination. Don't get me wrong, Marco Rubio is a highly talented guy and he's run a very good campaign. However, the movement was there, looking for a leader, and Marco stepped up, but if not Marco, there would have been someone else. My mistake early on was thinking there was a chance that Crist could rally, but clearly that was never going to be allowed to happen.
Now that doesn't mean the attacks on Rubio or the GOP credit card investigation won't have an impact, but it won't help Crist in the GOP primary, and considering that former GOP head, Jim Greer, the center of the controversy, was also put there by Charlie Crist, it likely won't help him anywhere.
I don't think there is any doubt he moves forward and runs as an NPA. The only question is timing. Does he pull the trigger tomorrow or wait another week. At this point, that is the only suspense.
I still believe his path is uphill and he is very likely to lose, even as an independent. But then again, there is nothing in modern American history to compare this to, so we will all find out together.