A new Chamber of Commerce poll gives Charlie Crist his biggest lead yet since declaring as an independent in the Florida Senate race: Crist takes "42 percent of the vote to Rubio’s 31 percent. Another 14 percent favor Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek, and 12 percent still undecided." According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Crist has a 4.8% lead over Rubio. (Crist has been ahead of Rubio in four of the past five polls; they were tied in one).
As The Hotline's Reid Wilson notes, "Political observers have speculated Crist's numbers would drop after his switch, as both parties' bases revert to backing their own candidates." Why hasn't that happened? Maybe Crist is simply a stronger candidate as an independent than some, including me, predicted.
Or perhaps it's mostly that voters don't know the other candidates that well. The Chamber of Commerce poll didn't ask whether voters recognized the candidates, but a June 9 Quinnipiac poll, which showed Crist up by four points over Rubio, found that 34 percent of voters hadn't heard enough about Rubio to have an opinion of him, compared to just 11 percent who said the same of Crist. And 69 percent of voters hadn't heard enough about Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek him to have an opinion of him.
In the August 24 primary, Meek is facing billionaire Jeff Greene, whom Meek was beating 29 percent to 27 percent in that Quinnipiac poll.
The Hotline's Wilson writes:
"Greene came by his fortune through credit-default swaps, raising the prospect of easy attacks on his record in a state that's been hard-hit by the recession and the bursting housing bubble.
"If Greene does win the nomination, Dems may be more willing to back Crist as the party establishment's de facto nominee. That could make up for Crist's lack of infrastructure, which he had counted on the state GOP to deliver, had he won their nomination."
But if Meek is the nominee, maybe he'll get a big boost after August 24 and cut into the Democratic support for Crist.
The best scenario for Crist is for the Democrat in the race to continue to languish in third place in the polls until just before the election, at which point the Democrats can pressure him into backing Crist. As left-wing blogger Markos Moulitsas writes, "There's no reason to abandon the Democrat right now. But a decision on that will have to be made in late October."