PPP: Rubio up by eight as Republicans, Democrats come home

Florida goes to the polls today to choose their nominees for the general election in statewide and federal offices, and the two men who have nothing to do today are the most affected.  According to a new survey from PPP, Kendrick Meek should easily win his primary over billionaire self-funder Jeff Greene, who more or less imploded over the last several weeks.  With Meek in the race, both Democrats and Republicans come home to their parties — which is good news for Marco Rubio and a big problem for Charlie Crist:

Democrats will get their stronger candidate if Kendrick Meek wins the Florida Senate primary tonight as expected- but the biggest winner coming out of the primary may be Marco Rubio. PPP finds he would begin the general election in the lead at 40%, followed by Charlie Crist at 32%, and Meek at 17%. If Jeff Greene were somehow able to pull off the upset tonight it would be much closer with Rubio at 37%, Crist at 36%, and Greene at only 13%.

PPP’s last poll of the race in mid-July found Crist in the lead at 35% to 29% for Rubio and 17% for Meek. Two major developments have shifted the race in Rubio’s direction though. The first is that Democrats are now going for Meek 39-38 where before they were going for Crist 44-35. As Democrats have gotten to know Meek over the course of the primary campaign they’ve generally decided they like him and that’s cut into Crist’s support for the general election.

The other big difference is that many Republican voters have moved off the fence and they’ve almost universally moved into the Rubio column. Where Rubio had a 54-23 lead with GOP voters in July, it’s now increased to 69-20. Many Republicans were up in the air between Crist and Rubio previously but whatever they’ve seen over the last month has moved them more firmly into the Rubio column.

Other pollsters, notably Rasmussen, have put Rubio in the lead for several weeks in either case.  The change at PPP has less to do with voter movement than their switch to a likely-voter model.  That changed the picture of the electorate, as well has highlighted a shift over the summer that puts Crist in a tough position.  As he loses Republican voters, he’ll need to draw more Democrats, but as Allahpundit noted, the Democratic Party is not going to let Meek twist in the wind.

The internals of the survey show just how large a conundrum Crist faces.  Only 28% believe that Crist should caucus with the GOP if he wins, while 57% think he should caucus with Democrats.  Obviously, it’s Democrats who mainly feel this way — but they’re shifting their support to Meek anyway.  Crist can attempt to run back to his right to bolster his chances of stealing support from Rubio, but after spending the summer running against the GOP, that dive will have a difficulty rating of about 50.

Crist’s attempt to align himself with the White House will also backfire.  Among the likely voters in this survey, Barack Obama has an approval rating of 39/55.  Crist’s own approval rating has gone underwater to 42/44.  According to PPP, he still beats Rubio with independent voters with Meek in the race, 50/34, but that’s not nearly enough if Democrats move towards Meek.  It’s entirely possible that Crist will come in third, splitting the Democrats and independents while Rubio seizes a majority in a three-way race.