Abandon ship: Two key staffers leave Crist's campaign

The good news? He still crushes Democrat Kendrick Meek head to head. The bad news? He almost certainly won’t make it that far, and his inner circle now seems to be realizing it.

Looks grim, sure, but don’t forget: There’s “no way” he’s losing this primary.

In the latest sign of turbulence for Charlie Crist’s wounded U.S. Senate bid, key staffers are starting to leave the campaign.

Political director Pablo Diaz, one of the first two staff members hired for the Senate campaign, is departing at the end of the month for “a new opportunity.” Sean Doughtie, a well-regarded new media consultant who had worked with Crist for years, stopped working for the campaign at the end of January.

“The campaign was going in a different direction,” said Doughtie.

That’s as tactful a way to spin a fading campaign as you’re ever likely to see. Elsewhere, Politico’s wetting itself for reasons that escape me over Rubio’s decision to go to South Carolina and raise money with Jim DeMint:

Coming off his star turn at CPAC last week, Rubio’s plans to visit an early presidential primary state don’t look good. “Anything such as this which lends appearance that Marco is already looking past not only the August primary, but the November election, is not a good place for him to be politically,” a Republican strategist told Morning Score. “Oftentimes some forget that while Jim DeMint may have a small universe of followers who read RedState, the reality is that the vast majority of Americans, including in Florida, don’t have the slightest idea who Jim DeMint is.”

They’re both grassroots darlings who are using each other’s cred with the base to their own advantage. DeMint gets some extra cachet with young righties who are excited about Rubio and Rubio gets to raise his national profile with righty donors outside Florida who may not know who him but who certainly know DeMint’s “true conservative” reputation. Win/win. What’s the problem?

Exit question: Is there anyone in the party who’s both willing and able to help Crist in Florida by campaigning for him? The obvious candidate is McCain, who benefited so much from Crist’s own endorsement two years ago, but while he might be able to peel off a few centrists who are leaning towards Rubio, he’ll take a beating among grassroots conservatives in his own race with Hayworth for doing so. Romney’s another possibility, although I don’t know how much pull he’d have in Florida and he’d be foolish to antagonize tea partiers by going against their new idol. Jeb Bush would be a huge get for Crist, but it looks like he’s tilting the other way too. Anyone out there? Bueller?

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