About two weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled “FL-Sen: Marco Rubio Crushing Charlie Crist Among Florida Republican Grassroots.” I went through seven Republican County Committees in Florida that have either censured Gov. Charlie Crist, come very close to censuring Charlie Crist, or held a straw poll in which Gov. Crist was crushed by his 2010 Republican Senate primary opponent, conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. While Crist enjoys the higher profile, heftier fundraising, and backing of the Republican establishment in Washington D.C., it’s clear that significant resentment toward Crist exists among Florida’s grassroots conservatives.Yesterday, this thorough article put the spotlight on Crist’s high level of vulnerability masked by high poll numbers predicated on a name recognition advantage:
Charlie Crist could be vulnerable in race for U.S. Senate
Crist’s popularity as governor doesn’t always extend to members of his own Republican Party, and that might make him vulnerable as he runs for U.S. Senate.Charlie Crist is swimming in campaign money, and polls consistently show him to be among the most popular politicians in America.
But something ominous and unpredictable is brewing in Florida, and a growing number of Republicans are starting to consider the unthinkable: the people’s governor could lose his campaign for U.S. Senate.
“It’s rare that I talk to anyone that’s got a good thing to say about the governor right now. It’s hard to find a real Charlie Crist ally,” said former state Republican Chairman Tom Slade. “Charlie Crist is a marvelous politician, but rarely do you use the word statesman with Charlie Crist. That’s his vulnerability, getting branded as another self-centered politician, and he doesn’t have many more opportunities to muff up before that happens.”
It’s a testament to Crist’s remarkable political skill, of course, that the entire world doesn’t view him as politically vulnerable. Consider the climate.
His state is losing population for the first time in 60 years. Unemployment and foreclosures are soaring. Taxes haven’t dropped like a rock as he promised, and Florida remains one hurricane away from bankruptcy. County Republican parties are openly revolting against Crist, while a charismatic young rival, Marco Rubio, is being hailed on the cover of William F. Buckley’s National Review magazine as the future of the GOP. …
Poll after poll finds beleaguered Florida voters think Crist, 53, is doing a heckuva job. Even as Tallahassee lobbyists loading up his U.S. Senate campaign account quietly dismiss him as an empty suit, Republican activists boo his name, and newspaper opinion writers become increasingly scornful of his leadership. …
But talk to veteran Republican activists across Florida, from local organizers to elite operatives to big-money bundlers, and there’s a sense Crist could be in trouble. Probably not, but just maybe.
Money means a lot in a state as vast as Florida, and former state House Speaker Rubio, 38, may not prove viable. But many prominent Republicans see at least the potential for a GOP coup — especially after Crist picked his longtime political advisor, George LeMieux, to complete the unfinished Senate term of Mel Martinez.
“The George LeMieux pick was kind of a trip wheel,” said Slade, the former state Republican chairman. “When the mood begins to swing, it doesn’t take it long to build momentum. . . . If Marco can tap into the resources of conservative America, he could be a force far more powerful than Charlie bargained for.” …
The polls don’t show it yet, but warning signs abound for Crist. Local Republican executive committees and clubs in every corner of the state are holding symbolic “straw poll” votes where Rubio doesn’t just beat Crist, but consistently trounces him 8- or 9-to-1.
“I do think Charlie is vulnerable. People are really unhappy in general, but Republicans seem very, very unhappy with Crist,” said state Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, recounting that 200 people showed up earlier this month to see Rubio at a Lakeland Republican club meeting that normally would have drawn a few dozen.
“When that was over, I don’t think one person left there planning to vote for Crist,” said Dockery, who is neutral in the Senate primary.
It’s a well-written evisceration of the conventional wisdom that Charlie Crist is guaranteed a U.S. Senate seat. No matter how much money Crist raises (and he will considerably outraise Rubio), nothing can change the fact that die-hard conservatives in Florida neither like nor trust nor support Crist. If Rubio can adequately mobilize these conservatives and build their ranks by effectively highlighting where Crist dumps overboard conservative ideological orthodoxy, Crist can lose the primary. Finally, the traditional media is beginning to take notice.
One thing is for sure
If the GOP does choose Rubio instead of Crist, they will pour money into the state to get Rubio elected.Right now, the establishment does support Crist, but if he loses this primary, he’ll be done…very done, and almost immediately, money will roll to Rubio.
Money will flow to Meek as well though.
Meek’s fundraising has been really good, but imagine what it will be like if Crist goes down and this race jumps to a tossup.
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