The key bit comes at the very end but I’m giving you the whole clip to show you how rough this primary with Rubio has already become. I actually think he’s doing the right thing politically by sticking with his support of the stimulus (“It was the right thing to do”): He’s got plenty of cover from the media to argue that it helped the state — although he’d have to argue damned hard — and Rubio’s already done a thorough enough job of tying Crist to it that flip-flopping now would only look weak and craven. Best to stand by your decision, hope that public perceptions change, and at least win a few “man of integrity” points with voters.

Although, if Rasmussen’s right, he’s going to have to win more than a few:

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Republican Primary voters finds Rubio leading Crist by 18 points, 54% to 36%. Four percent (4%) prefer some other candidate, and seven percent are undecided.

Those figures reflect a five point increase in support for Rubio compared to a month ago. Support for Crist has changed little over the past month.

In December, the two GOP hopefuls were tied at 43% apiece. The new findings mark Rubio’s best showing to date and Crist’s worst. The good news for Crist is that Florida Republicans don’t pick their nominee until an August 24 primary…

Fifty-four percent (54%) of likely primary voters have a favorable view of Crist. This marks an eight-point drop from the previous survey. Sixteen percent (16%) now view him very favorably. Forty-four percent (44%) of Republican voters in the state now have an unfavorable view of the incumbent GOP governor, including 14% whose view is very unfavorable. Only two percent (2%) have no opinion of him.

Moderates split evenly between the two but Rubio leads with conservatives by … 40 points. Crist’s approval rating as governor is also down sharply among primary voters since just last month, from 56 percent to 48 percent; his disapproval number’s a point higher than that, which is all the evidence you need of how much Rubio’s attacks have taken out of him. Exit question: The conventional wisdom for months is that Crist’s fighting a losing battle here and will have to consider either a party switch or an independent run to avoid getting knocked off in the primary. But he and Rubio are set to debate on Fox News Sunday on March 28th. If he waits until after the debate to make the switch, won’t it be seen as a tacit admission that he’s lost the argument, which will fatally wound him in the general? His strategy, I assume, is to do well enough on FNS that it’ll narrow the gap between him and Rubio, but how wide does the gap have to get before it becomes unnarrowable?

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