Quinnipiac shows Crist edging Rubio with an independent bid

Small wonder Charlie Crist’s advisers have suddenly started dropping big hints about an independent bid.  Their polling may have matched that published today by Quinnipiac.  While the Q-poll confirms that Marco Rubio will blow Crist out of the water in a Republican primary, it predicts a very narrow win for the embattled governor in Florida’s Senate race:

Marco Rubio has opened up an elephant-sized 56 – 33 percent lead over Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s U.S. Senate Republican primary, but in a three-way general election with Rubio on the GOP line, Crist as an independent and Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, Crist has a razor- thin edge, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Gov. Crist leads Meek 48 – 34 percent in a general election matchup, while Rubio’s margin over the Democrat is just 42 – 38 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey finds.

If Crist were to file as an independent for the general election, he would get 32 percent of the vote, compared to Rubio’s 30 percent and Meek’s 24 percent.

That’s quite a change from Rasmussen’s poll from last month. That survey showed Rubio winning a three-way race handily over both Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meeks. What’s the difference? Quinnipiac polled registered voters, while Rasmussen polled likely voters. The latter is a far better predictive model, although the wide differences are rather startling even considering the different sample models.

It may be enough, though, to convince Crist to pull out of the primary and risk an all-or-nothing shot at the general election.  If so, Crist only has 15 days to decide.  That’s the filing deadline for Florida, and Crist would have to change his mind before that date to pull out.

And if he does, Crist may get even lonelier than he is at the moment.  His hand-picked seatwarmer in the Senate, George LeMieux, refused to state whether he’d back Crist as an independent:

Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL), one of FL Gov. Charlie Crist’s (R) closest advisors, said this morning he does not believe Crist will leave the GOP, even as Crist’s campaign has seemingly left the door open for a last-minute party switch.

On a conference call previewing Pres. Obama’s trip to the Kennedy Space Center today, LeMieux declined to say whether he would support Crist’s potential independent bid.

“I have no information that he’s going to run as an independent. He’s a Republican. He’s always been a Republican, and I expect him to run as a Republican,” LeMieux said when asked whether he would continue backing Crist in the event Crist becomes an independent.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it doesn’t put LeMieux’s support totally out of reach, either.

Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown rightly notes that Crist winning a GOP primary now would be the equivalent of hiking up a “90-degree mountain,” a virtual impossibility. I’d be surprised if Crist doesn’t go indy by the end of the month.

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