Charlie Crist’s Decision To Go Independent Looking Smarter And Smarter
When Florida Governor Charlie Crist dropped out of the Republican Senate primary to run as an independent, the conventional wisdom was that he’d fade away quickly but as time goes on, it’s looking like he made a very smart political decision:
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who switched from Republican to independent, holds a small 37 percent to 33 percent lead over Republican Marco Rubio in his bid to win the state’s Senate seat, with Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek trailing at 17 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted June 1-7. Eleven percent are undecided and the margin of error is 2.9 points.
Billionaire real estate developer Jeff Greene, who has jumped into the Democratic race to challenge Meek, polls 14 percent in the three-way race.
Rubio is keeping 64 percent of the Republican vote compared to Crist’s 28 percent, so Crist’s lead rests upon the 37 percent of Democratic support he is drawing and the 51 percent support he gets from independents compared to 26 percent for Rubio and 10 percent for Meek.
Meek still suffers from the fact, at this relatively early stage of the campaign, that 69 percent of voters say they haven’t heard enough about him to form a favorable or unfavorable opinion.
A separate poll, by Rasmussen Reports, conducted June 7, has Rubio and Crist tied at 37 percent each with 15 percent for Meek and 11 percent undecided. In Mid-May, Rasmussen had Rubio ahead 38 percent to 31 percent with Meek at 17 percent and 11 percent undecided.
Rasmussen has Rubio keeping the allegiance of 66 percent of Republicans. Crist gets 24 percent of Republicans, 47 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of unaffiliated votersd (compared to Rubio’s 38 percent, with the rest for Meek, someone else or undecided.)
“Obviously there is a long time until November, but (Crist) is doing very well among independent voters, almost as well among Democrats as Meek,” said Quinnipiac’s Peter A. Brown. “With Rubio getting two-thirds of the Republican vote, the fate of Gov. Crist, who switched from a Republican to independent six weeks ago, depends heavily on his ability to appeal to Democratic voters.”
The trend so far, in fact, has been one in which the race has essentially turned into one between Rubio and Crist, while the probable Democrat nominee has faded far into the background:
In fact, there are some reports that top Democrats are already in the process of abandoning Meek, or any Democrat for that matter, in favor of Crist.
Additionally, Crist recently hired the former Chief of staff to Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer as his media consultant and Crist has hinted that, if he is elected, he would caucus with the Democrats for leadership purposes (of course, as James noted last night on the podcast, it’s likely that Crist will try to caucus with whoever happens to be in the majority on November 3rd).
In addition to the fading Democratic candidate, though, there’s another factor that could go a long way toward helping Crist in November, the Gulf Oil Spill. With oil threatening the Gulf Coast of Florida, Crist is getting much free media time on Florida television and, he’s staking out a position on offshore drilling that is likely to be quite popular over the next few months:
Rubio has maintained his support for expanded offshore drilling, but Crist has dropped his support.
“Recognized that offshore drilling indeed poses many threats to the well being of our state, Charlie Crist advocates for a ban on the issuance of offshore oil leases,” his Senate campaign said on its website. “Gov. Crist advocates letting Florida votes decide whether we should have a constitutional ban on offshore drilling.”
For the past month, in fact, Crist has been hinting that he will call the Florida Legislature into session for the purpose of putting on the November ballot a Constitutional Amendment that would ban offshore oil drilling in Florida waters. This could all work out in Crist’s favor given the fact that a recent poll shows a majority of Florida voters opposing offshore oil drilling by a 51% to 42% margin. Before the oil pill, the same poll had Florida voters favoring offshore drilling by a 66% to 27% margin.
What this all boils down to is the simple fact that, after appearing to be politically dead in the GOP primary and making what most analysts considered a last-ditch desperate move by going Independent, Charlie Crist appears to be in the perfect position to walk into the Senate in Janaury 2011.