How did that televised debate between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio work out for Florida’s embattled governor?  He needed a Hail Mary to put a dent into Rubio’s overwhelming lead, or at least establish himself as an attractive enough candidate to launch an independent bid for Senator.  Instead, Rasmussen’s latest survey shows that Crist may have done near-fatal damage to both efforts (via Twitter follower Randy Scudder):

Support for Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s U.S. Senate bid has fallen this month to its lowest level yet. Just 28% of the state’s likely Republican voters support his candidacy now, down six points from March.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely GOP Primary voters in the Sunshine State shows former state House Speaker Marco Rubio edging up a point from last month to 57%, his highest level of support to date. Three percent (3%) like some other candidate in the race, and 12% are undecided.

Republican Primary voters see Rubio as a stronger candidate than Crist in the General Election. Eighty-one percent (81%) say Rubio would be at least Somewhat Likely to win if nominated while just 63% say the same of Crist. Those figures include 53% who say Rubio would be Very Likely to win and 30% who see Crist as Very Likely to win.

The crosstabs only relate to GOP primary voters, so their analytical value is somewhat limited. Crist only wins three demographics, and those only by pluralities: self-described moderates, liberals, and wage earners who make less that $20K per year. Otherwise it’s a complete shutout for Marco Rubio, mostly by large majorities. Oddly, even with this, Crist still has a majority of respondents giving him favorable job-approval numbers, suggesting that his political career may not be permanently damaged by this embarrassing episode.

Three weeks ago, Ramussen had Rubio handily winning a three-way race in the general election, with both Crist and Kendrick Meeks losing by twenty points or more to Rubio. This doesn’t appear to have changed much, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Crist falling even further back than his 22% after the debate. George Will delivered something of a coup de grace yesterday:

A recent debate on “Fox News Sunday” illustrated the differences between the few politicians who are, and the many who are not, willing to face facts. Marco Rubio, the former speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives who is challenging Gov. Charles Crist for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, made news by stating the obvious.

Asked how the nation might address the projected $17.5 trillion in unfunded Social Security liabilities, Rubio said that we should consider two changes for people 10 or more years from retirement. One would raise the retirement age. The other would alter the calculation of benefits: Indexing them to inflation rather than wage increases would substantially reduce the system’s unfunded liabilities.

Neither idea startles any serious person. But Crist, with the reflex of the unreflective, rejected both and said that he would fix Social Security by eliminating “waste” and “fraud,” of which there is little. The system’s problems are the result not of incompetent administration but of improvident promises made by Congress.

Synthetic indignation being the first refuge of political featherweights, Crist’s campaign announced that he believes Rubio’s suggestions are “cruel, unusual and unfair to seniors living on a fixed income.” They are indeed unusual, because flinching from the facts of the coming entitlements crisis is the default position of all but a responsible few, such as Wisconsin’s Rep. Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Rubio. What is ultimately cruel is Crist’s unserious pretense that America faces only palatable choices and that improvident promises can be fully funded with money currently lost to waste and fraud.

In other words, Crist has accomplished something amazing: he made a sitting governor into an empty suit, and the insurgent into the voice of wisdom. He couldn’t do more to lose this race if he tried.