The highest ranking Democrat in Florida’s state Senate on Thursday endorsed Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist in his bid for the U.S. Senate…
Lawson, known as the “Dean of the Legislature” for his tenure as the longest serving member of Florida’s state Senate, is the only African-American state senator from North Florida; Meek is Florida’s first ever African-American U.S. Senate nominee.
“Florida desperately needs an independent senator in Washington who will fight for good jobs and economic opportunity, a quality education for every child, and Social Security for all of our seniors regardless of what the political party bosses want,” Lawson said in a statement. “Charlie Crist will be exactly that Senator, and I am proud to endorse his candidacy.”
Big deal or no? Well, remember that Crist polls fairly well among black Democrats. He might have ended up as their candidate of choice had Greene upset Meek in the primary; as it is, he’ll have to work hard to peel black voters away — although endorsements like this certainly help. Then again, Hillary was endorsed by a bunch of prominent black Democrats early in the 2008 primaries and Obama won overwhelmingly among in that demographic anyway.
Beyond the racial politics, though, obviously any signal from a top Democrat to the rank and file that it’s okay to support the indie over the party nominee is crucial. Ed cited an analysis the other day claiming that Crist has a tough path to the nomination because he needs a third of both the Democratic and Republican vote, as well as 50 percent of unaffiliateds. But a third of the Democratic vote isn’t unthinkable, especially if big names start coming out in his favor. In fact, Crist can conceivably do way, way better than a third if he starts to identify publicly as a Democrat, which he’s bound to do — if not personally, then via surrogates like Lawson — as the race wears on. I still think the most significant poll in the race thus far is the one last week by PPP claiming that fully two-thirds of Meek’s support would shift instantly to Crist if he announced that he’ll caucus with the Democrats. He’s reluctant to do that since it’ll cost him his Republican support, but then that’s why these endorsements are important: They preserve plausible deniability for him while wooing the voters he needs. (At least one Crist fundraiser is on record as saying, “[A]fter all the Republican Party has done to Charlie, he caucuses with the Democrats.”)
The big question, now more than ever, is whether there’s any critical mass of support among Democrats that Crist can attract to sway Obama into endorsing him. The only way it happens, I think, is in late October and only then if Meek is completely hopeless; imagine Rubio leading Crist 45/37 with Meek floundering at around 18 percent and you’ve got ideal conditions. In that case, the party would forgive The One for betraying the nominee for the greater good of keeping the seat out of Republican hands. And hey — it’s not like Obama would have to do it through gritted teeth. According to the Hill, he’s in Crist’s camp already:
Unfortunately for Meek, one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington and in the media who care to report the actual news is that President Obama and key Democratic leaders, particularly those who control and influence the purse strings, are giving a wink and a nudge to big donors to write checks to Crist instead of Meek. Crist is now being supported by the dirty, sexy money from Establishment Democrats, and is certain to lose what little Republican support he may have been able to hold onto up to this point, significantly increasing the chances for a Marco Rubio (R) win in November. Crist needs Obama, and Obama needs Crist. And like a Lifetime Channel tearjerker made-for-TV movie, we all know where this leaves Kendrick Meek.
Amazingly, Meek lives up to his name and is “meek” on this important point, instead preferring to grovel and be grateful for crumbs tossed his way by Establishment Democrats, pretending that President Obama is right there by his side. In truth, Obama and the Democrats are doing just enough to keep up appearances, all the while sticking the shiv in Meek’s back behind the scenes, and cavorting with Charlie Crist on the side.
Exit question: Time to start a pool on when Obama dumps Meek officially? I’ll take October 20.