Green Room

Crist at a Crux

posted at 4:43 pm on April 23, 2010 by

The kettle comes to a boil for Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, as he decides whether to switch to Independent in order to run a three-way race for the Florida U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by Mel Martinez. If Crist stays within the Republican party, he will lose the primary big time; if he turns his coat, he will be running against Republican Marco Rubio and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL, 95%).

I wrote before why I think he would be a fool to switch parties; now there is more evidence that even if he does light that sorry candle, Crist will likely lose the race anyway — and will have destroyed his future political career as well.

Back in mid-April, a Quinnipiac poll of a three-way donnybrook showed Crist ahead of Rubio by a scant two points, with Democrat Meek trailing far behind. I noted that this was easily within the margin of error, and the poll was taken before voters had really had a chance to think about the idea of Crist departing the party and running as an indy.

But a much more recent Rasmussen poll now shows Rubio seven points ahead of Crist, this time with Meek almost falling off the back of the turnip truck, 15 points behind the front runner. Evidently, if this poll is to be believed — and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be — voters have made their decision about Charlie Crist running as spoiler.

Looking back, only two polls have ever shown Crist winning that threesome: The Quinnipiac poll cited above from April 8th-13th, and a poll back in November by Daily Kos, which showed Crist ahead by 1%, Meek in second, and Rubio third. This earlier poll was conducted before Rubio’s meteoric rise; that same Kos poll also showed Crist walloping Rubio in the primary by 10 points, the last in a long series of polls showing Crist beating Rubio comfortably. But since late January, every poll shows Rubio leading Crist in the primary by double-digits.

This is hardly encouraging news for a sitting governor seeking to switch jobs and parties at the same time.

Finally, here is an amusing piece by Chris Cillizza in his Washington Post column the Fix: “Why Charlie Crist is no Joe Lieberman.” I particularly like this section:

* Standing on principle: In the wake of his loss to Lamont, most general election voters attributed the defeat to the fact that Lieberman refused to back away from his support for the war in Iraq — a position he cast as a stand on principle. (Liberal Democrats would almost certainly disagree with that characterization but it was the prevailing perception among many Connecticut voters.) Losing on principle made Lieberman a sympathetic — and hence electable — candidate in a general election. Crist will have a harder time making the “principled stand” justification if he switches as it will have come after months of polling showing him with next-to-no path to victory in the Republican primary against Rubio. If he does switch, expect Crist to make some sort of “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me” appeal to independent voters but Rubio is doing everything he can to frame a Crist switch in the most crass political terms possible. [Emphasis on last phrase added]

Well… can anyone think of more creditable terms than “crass political” to describe Crist’s road-to-Damascus conversion to Independent?

I stand by my pronunciamento: Crist would be a fool to run as an independent. But of course, there are fools in the world.

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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