Rubio passes Crist in new Quinnipiac poll

Granted, it’s still within the margin of error, but Governor Charlie Crist has to feel pretty desperate at this point to cling to the bottom edge of the MOE.  Even Quinnipiac sounds surprised by the results, but Florida Republicans have moved inexorably away from Crist as the governor’s attempts to support Barack Obama and his Porkulus plan laid an egg in the Sunshine State.  And in a bigger shock, Rubio does better against the presumed Democratic nominee, too:

Former State House Speaker Marco Rubio has squeaked past Gov. Charlie Crist in the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination, leading 47 – 44 percent and topping Gov. Crist on trust, values and conservative credentials, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Rubio beats the leading Democrat, South Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek, 44 – 35 percent in a general election matchup, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Crist leads Meek 48 – 36 percent. …

“Who would have thunk it? A former state lawmaker virtually unknown outside of his South Florida home whose challenge to an exceedingly popular sitting governor for a U.S. Senate nomination had many insiders scratching their heads. He enters the race 31 points behind and seven months later sneaks into the lead,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “And, the horse race numbers are not a fluke. Rubio also tops Crist on a number of other measurements from registered Republicans, who are the only folks who can vote in the primary. Rubio’s grassroots campaigning among Republican activists around the state clearly has paid off.

The entirety of Crist’s problem appears to be his decision to actively support Obama’s stimulus plan.  Crist actually has moderately acceptable job-approval numbers, 50/39, and decent favorability among Republicans, 64/27.  Had Crist chosen to run for re-election as Governor, he’d probably be a shoo-in.  Changing to the Senate race has cost Crist most of his advantages of incumbency and put himself in position to be attacked from not just the Right but even the center, as independents grow less enchanted with Obama.

Quinnipiac polled on Obama’s support in Florida, and the numbers don’t bode well for either Obama or Crist.  His approval ratings in the Q-poll have slipped under water for the first time, 45/49.  Three months ago, Obama was treading water at 48/46, pointing to a continuing erosion in a state Obama won.  A year ago, when Crist campaigned for Obama’s Porkulus on the same stage as the President, Crist’s constituents gave Obama a 64/23 approval rating.

Now, of course, Crist wants to run away from that photo op — but Floridians have long memories.  Crist revealed himself as a political opportunist rather than a principled conservative, and now even the moderates are walking away from Crist. (via Jim Geraghty, who uses a cool Hunt for Red October reference)