As the Florida Legislature draws new lines for the state's congressional districts, observers are predicting that Charlie Crist could make a political comeback by running for Congress in a district that is due to become Democratic-leaning, The National Journal reported.
The seat may also appear within reach because GOP Rep. David Jolly has announced he will vacate his post and run for Senate. Nevertheless, strategists believe Crist could face stiff competition from former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker.
"The district is almost tailor-made for only one Republican as well as one Democrat, which would make a Charlie Crist-Rick Baker square-off maybe the most looked-at congressional race in the nation in 2016," Adam Goodman, Baker's senior political adviser, told National Journal. "It would truly be a clash of two titans."
Crist served as governor as a Republican from 2007 to 2011. He made a bid for U.S. Senate in 2010 instead of seeking re-election, but lost in the GOP primary to Sen. Marco Rubio before switching to becoming an independent for the general election, when he lost again.
Shortly after his defeat, Crist joined the Democratic Party and went on to support President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election bid. In 2014, Crist ran for governor, but the party switches left him vulnerable to attacks from Republicans throughout the campaign who said he was motivated solely by political preservation and self-interest. In the end, he lost to Republican Rick Scott by a small margin.
"After a candidate runs and loses, there's a sort of bitterness towards them," Eric Jotkoff, former communications director for the Florida Democratic Party, told National Journal. "With Charlie Crist, there's none of that. Rick Scott won the race by spending $100 million against him, and there's no one that has ill will based on that."
Baker is seen as a strong contender. He was mayor of St. Petersburg from 2001 to 2010 and is credited with revitalizing its inner city. In his re-election campaign, he won that area of the city with 90 percent.
Goodman said, however, that there is no "active planning" on Baker's side while the National Republican Congressional Committee declined to comment on the race. Kevin Cate, a Crist adviser, also said their camp isn't discussing the race but that Crist has seen lots of encouragement to run both locally and nationally, the National Journal reported.
"There are a lot of X factors, but it's becoming a seat that is much more difficult for us to achieve," Florida GOP strategist Rick Wilson said of the new district, according to the National Journal. "Everybody's waiting for Baker. That's the sort of miracle cure that can work."
"I think as a party we can't take anything for granted, and we're going to have to campaign hard for it, but I think that district will become more Democratic," Ashley Walker, Obama's Florida state director in 2012, told the National Journal.
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