The race is on for the battle to fill the United States Senate seat in Florida recently vacated by Republican Mel Martinez. Florida Governor Charlie Crist entered the race with a commanding lead in the polling for the Republican primary. The seat is currently being kept warm by George LeMieux.
As recently as mid-October 2009, Crist easily led main competitor Marco Rubio 52.8% to 29.4%. Rubio was closer to the remainder of the pack – 17.8%.
A Rasmussen survey of 471 likely Republican voters finished in a dead heat – 43% to 43%.
“Stunning is a good word for it,” said Scott Rasmussen, the pollster. “I’ll be honest, when we first polled on this primary matchup, I didn’t expect it to be very competitive. What’s happened is the political mood around the country has evolved in a way that’s very bad for Charlie Crist.”
This is not stunning in the least bit. The Republican Party is seeking their identity and apparently it is with the more Conservative candidates. Talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are promoting these far right wing candidates.
Just look at what happened last month in NY-23 as a great example.
Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava was rejected by a portion of her party for not being conservative enough. As a result, Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman (a favorite of Glenn Beck’s) joined the General Election. Scozzafava withdrew from the race endorsing Democratic candidate and victor Bill Owens.
Yes, the Republican endorsed the Democrat over the Conservative.
If Rasmussen truly was stunned, then he is not familiar with the landscape (which I find difficult to believe as he is a pollster) or he doesn’t understand Florida politics.
Florida is a relatively balanced state with more registered Democrats than Republicans. In statewide elections, we generally go with the incumbent, the most popular candidate or with the national political trend and is not a guaranteed win for either party.
Florida’s Congress is heavily slanted toward the Republicans (about 67%-33%) courtesy of gerrymandered districts.
Daily Kos noted that “there’s no way [Crist] can out teabag Rubio.”
True words, indeed.
Here is what I said about Marco Rubio in a post on December 4, 2008.
“Former Florida Speaker of the House, he is a strong conservative and has been at odds with Republican Governor Charlie Crist because Crist is too moderate.”
In a My 2 Buck$ post on January 13, 2009 where I offered my opinion on the Democratic field to replace Martinez. I spoke more on Rubio concluding with:
“The winner [of the Democratic Party primary] will most likely lose to whoever the Republicans put up in the election. I do find it hard to imagine Marco Rubio not coming out on top.”
In replying to a comment mocking me on my Rubio projection, I responded with:
“He’s Republican. He was Speaker of the House. He’ll have the Rove machine behind him. Who do you think could beat him?”
I admit I fully expected Crist to run for re-election as governor however a Rubio primary victory cannot be a shocker.
Crist has tried to be a People’s governor – when he isn’t running for election.
- He is against off-shore drilling (as long as he isn’t trying to become a Republican VP nominee)
- He extended early voting hours for the November 2008 General Election which favored Democratic voters as Florida does have more registered Democrats.
- He struck a deal with the Seminole Indians on a casino deal that so angered Rubio and Conservatives that they took him to court over the decision.
- He backed President Obama’s stimulus plan even introducing him before a speech.
- He drove the Florida Congress to pass the Cover Florida Heath Care Access Program which makes ‘affordable health coverage available to 3.8 million uninsured Floridians’.
With the Fox News machine behind Rubio, there is no way Crist can win the Republican Party.
Kos offered a few suggestions for Crist.
- Drop out of the Senate race and run for re-election as governor.
- Change parties and run as a Democrat
- Run for the Senate as an Independent – like Joe Lieberman.
I have thought about each of these options for a number of weeks. I doubt that Crist drops out of the race as it would be a sign of weakness and the Conservative wing will introduce some other hard line person to beat Crist for governor – they may even dig up Katherine Harris. It does seem that the Conservative wing would prefer to lose than support a more moderate candidate.
Crist would probably do well as a Democratic candidate for the Senate. There is no one with the state-wide name recognition of Crist nor will any candidate rise as high as Crist before the primaries.
The third option is Crist riding this primary out and losing to Rubio. Crist then runs in the General Election as an Independent like Joe Lieberman. Crist easily gets the support of moderate Republicans and Democrats and Republicans who feel betrayed by their more right wing base and Democrats who feel betrayed by their party’s inability to pass any real Progressive legislation during the first two years of Obama’s term.
If you liked Jeb Bush’s conservative positions and how he stuck to his guns, you will love Marco Rubio. I’m sure Sarah Palin will be here campaiging for Rubio and he’ll get plenty of air time on Beck, Hannity and Limbaugh.
If you prefer a politician who repeatedly puts people before party, then Charlie Crist is your candidate.
My 2 Buck$