TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 12) -- Popular GOP Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday he will run for U.S. Senate instead of re-election next year, a possible stepping stone to a presidential bid and a welcome jolt for a struggling Republican Party desperate to keep Florida in its column.Crist Senate Florida
"Here in Florida, we've shown that when we put people first and work together much can be accomplished, and I intend to bring that same approach to Washington," Crist said in a statement announcing his bid.
Crist, 52, instantly becomes the front-runner in the Senate race. He has maintained approval ratings in the high 60-percent range despite the state's gloomy economy, budget cuts, a high foreclosure rate and the highest unemployment level since 1975. That popularity is credited to an unwavering optimism, bipartisan attitude and the projection of a sense that he cares.
The governor, whose ability to charm people is sometimes compared to Bill Clinton's, was on the list of possible 2008 GOP vice presidential candidates.
Sen. John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, quickly endorsed Crist. Senate Republicans are looking at the likelihood that the Democrats will hold a 60-seat majority in the Senate that can overcome GOP filibusters and help pass President Barack Obama's legislative agenda.