U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson speaks during a campaign stop for President Barack Obama in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 5, 2012.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Sen. Nelson: I’d consider running for gov if Crist’s campaign doesn’t ‘get off the ground’


In an effort to tamp down recent speculation over a potential intra-party battle, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson told msnbc.com that right now he has no plans to run for governor in 2014, a contest that would pit the Democratic three-term senator against former Republican Governor turned Democrat Charlie Crist in a primary.

“I want to be clear that I have no plans to run for governor,” Nelson told msnbc.com. “I wish Charlie Crist well,” he said.

But Nelson didn’t do much to fully oblige fellow Democrats in Florida who have lined up behind the former Republican Governor, reserving his option to jump into the race at some later time.

“If his campaign doesn’t get off the ground then I will consider the race,” Nelson said. “This state is being driven into a ditch under Rick Scott and I will not let Florida go down the drain because of this governor.”

Msnbc.com reported last week that Nelson had been seriously mulling a bid to run and had received encouragement from nervous Florida Democrats who are uncomfortable with Crist’s chances against Scott who has pledged to spend nearly $100 million dollars on his re-election.  

One day later, Crist adviser Steve Schale told the Florida Times Union that Nelson told him privately that he “does not intend” to run for governor.  But Nelson’s chief of staff, Pete Mitchell, reportedly called some prominent Democrats recently and told them the 71-year-old Nelson, is considering a bid.

Former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham and former Florida Congressman Jim Davis both told msnbc.com that Nelson’s candidacy would change the dynamics of a race against Scott.

Nelson’s wait and see approach puts more pressure on Crist not to stumble in his first statewide run as a Democrat while he raises money and works to coalesce support around the state.  If history can serve as a guide, Democrats can look at 1990, when the more seasoned and well known former Florida Senator Lawton Chiles hijacked Nelson’s bid for governor at the minute against unpopular Republican incumbent Bob Martinez,  who was picking up steam.  Nelson lost a bruising primary by 30 points to Chiles four months later, who went on to defeat Martinez and serve two terms as governor until his death in 1998.

Sen. Nelson: I'd consider running for gov if Crist's campaign doesn't 'get off the ground'