Lots of readers are looking at new polls in Florida and getting worried about Marco Rubio. I’m not, yet. I’d like to see Rubio leading, obviously, but a couple of things are jumping out at me in recent polling.
1. Democrats are wavering between Crist and Meek. Until April, Kendrick Meek was above 20 percent in a three-way matchup; since then, the bottom has fallen out; in the last four, he’s hit 15, 17, 15, and 14 percent.
This is an astonishingly low level for a major-party candidate in a competitive state. By contrast, Katherine Harris’s disaster of a Senate campaign won 38 percent in a two-way race, in a year when the words “Florida Republican” made people think of Mark Foley.
With one exception, when Meek is ahead of 20 percent, Rubio leads; when Meek is in the teens, Crist leads.
I have a tough time believing that Meek will not A) win the Democratic primary against Jeff Greene and B) remain in the race until the end. Yes, Meek is barely ahead in the Democratic primary, and Greene is spending a bundle. If Greene manages to spend his way to the Democratic nomination, we’ll have to rethink this; if the Democrats, in a swing state, are represented by a real-estate billionaire who hangs with Heidi Fleiss and Mike Tyson, it is possible that the Democrat’s final percentage on Election Day will be in the neighborhood of Meek’s current puny total.
Presuming the race is Rubio vs. Crist vs. Meek, will most of Florida’s Democrats disagree with Pennsylvania’s Democrats, and vote for the guy who they were rooting against just four years ago? I think a decent number of “Crist Democrats” will come home to Meek.
2. Charlie Crist is likely to have serious cash-flow problems as the race heats up. He has built up money reserves for now, but Florida’s an expensive state to campaign in and Rubio has proven a shockingly successful fundraiser. Crist is shut off from most of his national GOP donors. Right now, Charlie Crist dominates the news, because he’s just done something dramatic (leave his party) and every day he’s announcing some shocking about-face on issues, and ironically that’s helping him win the daily message fight.
3. Rally around the state flag: BP oil is starting to reach Florida, and Crist is doing gubernatorial things to protect his state. Instead of looking like a treacherous Oompa-loompa whose ravenous ambition devoured his principles long ago, he looks like the guy who’s trying to protect his state’s pretty wildlife and birds from the Blob.
This helps Crist at the moment, but we don’t know whether this halo effect will still be in place come November.
4. Nobody’s really attacked Crist yet: Remember the phrase, “7 definite flip-flops, 2 rhetorical shifts and 4 more where a switch seems inevitable.”
Beyond that, it’s July. If the numbers look like this in late September or October, we can start worrying.
UPDATE: A fifth point from a smart reader: “Sooner or later, he will have to declare whether he plans on voting for Harry Reid or Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader. That will move things. Along those lines, he’ll have to take stands on the issues which will either disappoint Democrats or move Republican-leaners toward Rubio.”