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Crist Defers on Making a Caucus Commitment

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (I) on Sunday again declined to reveal which political party he would caucus with if he wins the state’s three-way Senate race this November, while also clarifying his position on the new health care overhaul and his opposition to same-sex marriage.

A Republican until just a few months ago, Crist continued to insist that he would “caucus with the people of Florida” during an interview Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” But the governor’s shifts on key policies since leaving the GOP could indicate an intention to pursue Florida’s Democratic vote and to join forces with the Democrats should he defeat former Florida Speaker Marco Rubio (R) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) this fall.

“No. 1, this is a moot question unless I win, so I’ve got to work very hard to make sure I achieve the trust and support of my fellow Floridians to continue to be a public servant for them,” Crist said. “I think they know the way I’m going to go: I’m going to go the way that’s best for them, and I sincerely mean that — and that’s very important. I don’t have to say whether I’m going to caucus with the Democrats or Republicans.

“I think the important thing, if I have the honor of winning, is asking tough questions,” Crist continued. “We’ll make a decision thereafter.”

In recent days, Crist has come under fire for appearing to flip-flop on his position on the new health care law. Before exiting the Republican primary this year, the governor said he would have voted against it if he were a Senator. This past week, he said he would have voted for it, but then he quickly reversed himself.

On Sunday, he maintained he would have opposed the overhaul but said he now wants to work to “fix” it.

“Parts of it I do support, and there are parts of it I take issue with,” Crist said. “That’s the duty of being an Independent candidate. Had I been there, I would have voted against it. If I get elected, I’d like the opportunity to help fix it. Only an Independent can look at this one bill and find parts of it that are good and parts of it that are bad. In many ways I feel like an umpire calling balls and strikes.”

Meanwhile, despite describing himself as a “live-and-let-live kind of guy,” Crist said he remains opposed to same-sex marriage.

“I feel that marriage is a sacred institution, if you will. But I do believe in tolerance,” Crist said. “While I feel that way about marriage, if partners want to have the opportunity to live together, I don’t have a problem with that. And I think that’s where most of America is. And you know, you have to speak from the heart on these issues. They’re very personal, they have a significant impact on a lot of people, and I think the less the government is telling people what to do, the better off we’re all going to be.”

Since becoming an Independent, Crist has found himself running either first or second in public polling in the Sunshine State’s Senate race, trading places with Rubio at the top. Following the Florida primaries Tuesday, Rubio led the most recent surveys, with Meek in third place but rising after beating billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene in the Democratic primary. Meek appeared separately on “State of the Union,” while Rubio declined to speak on the program.

Meek attacked Crist as a career-long Republican on Sunday, part of what appears to be a concerted strategy to paint the Independent governor as a conservative. “This is going to be a very interesting race down here,” Meek told CNN. “I’m the only Democratic candidate in this race. I’m running against two career-long Republicans.

“I do feel it will be a three-way race all the way to the end,” Meek added.

Meek voiced support for allowing the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 under the George W. Bush administration to expire on schedule at year’s end, except for the middle class. Democratic leaders and the White House are pushing a plan that would continue the tax cuts only for those earning less than $200,000 annually and married couples earning less than $250,000. Republicans want them extended for all income brackets.

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