Why Crist Now Leads Rubio in Florida Senate Race

The Republican-turned-independent surges ahead

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Florida's Republican Governor Charlie Crist is now leading in polls against Republican Marco Rubio for the 2010 Florida Senate race, where Crist will run as an independent. Crist's break with his party was seen as a sign that the GOP's hard-line conservatives were growing in power over the moderate wing of the party. A recent poll by the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows Crist with 42 percent support, giving Rubio 31 percent and Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek 14 percent. After months of Rubio leading Crist, often by double digits, the new poll is the latest showing a Crist resurgence. How did he do it and what does it mean for the Florida and for national races?

  • Economy No Longer at Forefront The Florida Chamber of Commerce's Marian Johnson reports, "Interestingly, our poll also shows immigration and property taxes to be in the top three issues concerning Floridians for the first time in several years. ... Though the economy and job creation will certainly be weighing heavily on voters' minds going into the 2010 election cycle, education and the oil spill in the gulf are now two of the most important issues to voters and will become increasingly important on a statewide level."
  • Dems Giving Up on Meek Liberal blogger Taniel writes, "Sure, these numbers could evolve once [Democratic candidate Kendrick] Meek starts increasing his name recognition but with all the noise about Democratic officials starting to move towards Crist, the congressman's increasingly low numbers have to be worrisome."
  • Crist Gaining Black Vote, Labor Unions The National Review's Neal Freeman writes, "Crist began, typically, with a few brazen sorties into the black community. Back in 2006, he won 18 percent of the black vote, and he predicts that he will do even better this time. ... Meek will win the black vote, of course, but he may not run up the fat margins he would need to win statewide. With organized labor, Crist is doing better still. Meek won the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, but the single most important labor player in the state, the Florida Education Association, has just issued a 'dual endorsement' of Crist and Meek. FEA endorsements of Democratic candidates are semi-automatic, and the FEA hedge is thus counted as a big win for Crist."
  • Crist Hews Ideology to Electoral Prospects HotLine's Jamie Shufflebarger documents, "Crist's opinions have largely traced his electoral path. He was more of a libertarian centrist in '98, but a tough FL GOV primary against CFO Tom Gallagher (R) in '06 led him to take more socially conservative positions as the campaign progressed. When Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) considered him for his VP short list in '08, Crist's positions changed to toe the GOP platform, and then edged further to the right during the early days of the '10 FL SEN primary against ex-state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R). After he left the GOP in late Apr., observers have marveled at the speed of his shifts to the left."
  • 'The Oil Spill Saved Crist' The Daily Beast's Samuel Jacobs writes, "Once left for dead in his Senate campaign against Marco Rubio, Florida governor Charlie Crist has used the BP spill to show leadership and rise in the polls. ... The Gulf oil leak has yet to reach Florida's shores in a major way, but it has already caused a sea change in the Sunshine State's most prominent campaign. While Crist appears cool, composed, and in control--calling for tougher legislation to shut down offshore drilling--GOP wunderkind Rubio seems out of step with Florida's populace, supporting a policy of continued offshore drilling that polling shows voters reject."
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