All hail the political instincts of Jonathan caucus member Chait, who has predicted for months that Charlie Crist would walk on the Republican Party. Nothing confirmed yet, but it looks as if Chait nailed it. Nice call. I didn't see this one coming.
The most important immediate consequence if this happens would be the likely creation of a new swing voter in the Senate for the rest of the current Congress: George LeMieux.
Recall that Mel Martinez inexplicably resigned from the Senate earlier this year, and that Crist appointed LeMieux, despite conservative fears that LeMieux had dangerous moderate tendencies. LeMieux's real loyalty, however, appears to be to Crist, and given Crist's tough primary LeMieux established himself as a safe conservative vote in the Senate.
However, if Crist runs as an independent and therefore needs moderate and even some liberal voters, LeMieux would presumably shift to the center. We haven't seen that yet. LeMieux did not join moderates Snowe and Collins, new Senator Scott Brown, and retiring Senators Voinovich and Bond in voting for cloture on the jobs bill this week. In other words, he's still staying hard right. But then again Crist hasn't jumped yet.
Now, we don't know any of this for sure. It's possible that LeMieux is actually far more conservative than advertised, and would vote his convictions, rather than Crist's interests. It's possible that LeMieux wants a Republican future, and so he'll keep voting with the conservatives. We don't know. But if he does shift to the center, and if Scott Brown is going to be a wildcard, then getting 60 may suddenly be a lot easier for the Dems than they thought it would be a month ago. We've all been watching Brown, but it's time to start watching George LeMieux, too.