Until yesterday, Florida Democrats had managed to avoid the internecine fighting that plagued their Republican counterparts in the US Senate primary. As Charlie Crist announced his intent to run as an independent, which should have had Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek and his supporters cheering, they got their own primary fight instead. Jeff Greene, a real-estate mogul who made hundreds of millions of dollars betting against the bubble, jumped into the race:
Billionaire Jeff Greene, a Florida businessman who made his fortune in the real estate and credit default swap markets, plans to jump into his state’s Senate race on the Democratic side, a source familiar with his plans told POLITICO.
Greene’s entry into the race would represent the latest dramatic turn in a campaign already upended once this week by Gov. Charlie Crist’s decision to end his bid for the GOP’s Senate nomination and run as an independent.
Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami has been viewed as the presumptive Democratic nominee, bringing in funds at a steady clip and winning support from former President Bill Clinton and heavyweight progressive groups like the Florida AFL-CIO.
Meek has big reasons to worry, and not just the numbers on Greene’s checking accounts, either. While the focus has mainly been on the embarrassing collapse of Crist’s bid to win the GOP nomination, Meek’s poor performance wasn’t going to escape attention for very much longer. When the opposing party splits, the presumption would be that Meek should have taken the lead or at least come in second in a three-way race. Instead, Meek has finished third behind the two Republicans in most polling on the question.
That doesn’t mean that Greene will have an easy march to the nomination, either. His party has spent the past few weeks demonizing Wall Street and those who made money off of the economic misery of a nation. As Politico notes, Greene neatly fits into the Democratic narrative of villain rather than hero:
On the one hand, he’s the son of a textile machinery salesman and Hebrew school teacher made spectacularly good, yet on the other hand he’s a friend to boxer Mike Tyson and madam Heidi Fleiss who raked in hundreds of millions of dollars as the housing market collapsed.
A national Democrat expressed strong skepticism about Greene’s potential as a candidate: “Between Mike Tyson, Heidi Fleiss and making his billions off the backs of those who have lost their homes, this guy is going to be wild to watch.”
One has to wonder whether Greene qualifies for Barack Obama’s earnings threshold, too:
We’re not, we’re not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money. But, you know, part of the American way is, you know, you can just keep on making it if you’re providing a good product or providing good service. We don’t want people to stop, ah, fulfilling the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy.
The Florida GOP may or may not choose to make that an issue; after all, Republicans don’t play class-warfare games, but this will be rather low-hanging fruit, especially after Obama’s comments this week. Kendrick Meek will almost certainly play this card in the primary, though, which should serve to marginalize the Democrats even further in this race. It’s finally going to be time for Republicans to pass a little popcorn in Florida.