Independents, Democrats Give Crist the Lead

By Chris Good

After leaving the Republican Party to run for Senate as an independent, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is leading the three (or four) way race in more polls than not, and he's doing it with the backing of Democrats.


An Ipsos/McClatchy poll released today shows Crist at 39% 30%, Republican Marco Rubio at 27%; and Democrat Kendrick Meek at 15%.

In that same poll, Crist leads all candidates among Democrats, beating out Meek, the Democratic congressman from Miami and frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. Crist is supported by 38% of Democrats; Meek is backed by 33% of Democrats.

Crist wins the support, according to this poll, of 39% of independents, 38% of Democrats, and 26% of Republicans.

The new poll basically corroborates a Mason-Dixon poll released earlier this month, which also shows Crist leading the race, and beating Meek 48% to 36% among Dems.

Some factors to consider: this is a long race, and Democratic voters may shift their opinions on Meek and Crist. The Ipsos poll shows 40% of Democrats undecided about the Dem primary, which could indicate some wiggle room among those partisans. With so much time to go before November in a three-way race, each candidate will be able to shift his approach. Crist can go after Democrats, independents, or Republicans. Right now, it looks like he's going after Democrats and independents, having courted (and failed to secure) an endorsement from the AFL-CIO.

Another factor to watch: Jeff Greene, the billionaire wildcard candidate who's opposing Meek in the Democratic primary, hasn't been in this race for long, and isn't really on the map in any of the recent polls. He'll be investing his own considerable dollars in an ad campaign geared toward attacking Meek as a self-serving establishment politician; Meek will have to fend off that attack until August, when the Democratic primary will be held. It's a narrative that may not help the congressman win weakly affiliated Democratic-leaning voters from the independent Crist, depending on how many people notice it. As more polls come out, we'll see if Greene's candidacy gains traction. He drew only 9 percent from Democrats in this most recent poll.

Ipsos/McClatchy surveyed 607 registered voters May 14-18 by telephone, with a margin of error of +/4%.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/05/independents-democrats-give-crist-the-lead/57165/