Could it be back to the future for former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist?
That's the suggestion from a new poll, which indicates the Republican turned Democrat is leading the Sunshine State's current GOP governor in a hypothetical 2014 election showdown.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 50% of Florida registered voters say they would back Crist, running as a Democrat, with 34% supporting Gov. Rick Scott, if next year's gubernatorial contest was held today.
And the survey indicates that half of Florida voters say Crist's switch from Republican to independent and now to Democrat is a positive thing that shows he's a pragmatist, with four in ten saying it's a negative move which shows he lacks core beliefs.
Crist, then a Republican, won election as governor in 2006. Three years later he decided to run for the Senate in 2010 rather than make a bid for re-election as governor. At first he was the overwhelming favorite in the race, but thanks in part to his 2009 embrace of President Barack Obama at an event pushing the federal stimulus, which was despised by many Republicans, Crist fell far behind one time long-shot former state lawmaker Marco Rubio by the end of the year.
Crist then left the GOP and ran for the Senate as an independent, in a three-way contest that was won by Rubio. Last year he backed Obama in the presidential election, spoke at the Democratic National Convention, and late last year officially changed his party affiliation to Democrat, a big signal that he was interested in running for governor in 2014.
"I didn't leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me," Crist said on CNN's "Piers Morgan Tonight," at the time, repeating a line he used at the Democratic National Convention. "Issue after issue they seem to get more strident and more difficult."
"The fact that voters think it's an asset that former Gov. Charlie Crist moved from conservative Republican to a Democrat with very different political views will be a key metric to watch between now and the 2014 voting," says Quinnipiac University Polling Institute assistant director Peter Brown. "These numbers indicate Republicans will have a tough job turning around Crist's lead over Scott by reminding voters of Crist's evolution."
The Quinnipiac poll also indicates that Alex Sink, who as the state's chief financial officer, lost to Scott in the 2010 election, leads him 45%-34% in a hypothetical rematch.
Only 32% say that Scott deserves a second term in office and only 36% say they approve of the job he's doing as governor.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted March 13-18, with 1,000 registered voters in Florida questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.