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Charlie Crist's Path to Victory

Not necessarily likely, but plausible.

11:55 AM, Aug 31, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Steve Schale, the state director of Obama's 2008 campaign in Florida, writes that Charlie Crist can't win. Schale is a supporter of Democrat Kendrick Meek, but he makes a pretty persuasive case:

Charlie Crist will not be Florida's next United States Senator. 
 
In a year where most predictions are downright silly, I am very confident in that one.  When Kendrick Meek won last Tuesday, with his victory went Charlie Crist's chances.  Democrats who want to beat Marco Rubio should jump on the Meek train. 

To understand why, let's revisit the math.
 
For Crist to win the United States Senate race, he would need a formula that looked something like this:
 
33% of the Democratic vote
33% of the Republican vote
50% of the NPA vote. 
 
This formula would get him a vote total of 36-37%, a likely win scenario in a highly competitive three way race, where all three candidates are scoring in the thirties. 
 
Here is one problem:  Rubio is limiting him to 20% of the Republican vote.  If Rubio keeps him at 20% of the GOP vote, Crist needs to get 45% of the Democratic vote in order to win, and according to the latest PPP poll, Crist is only at 38% today with Democrats. [...]
 
Therefore, for Crist, who after 20 years of being a GOP insider, his only path to victory is to find a way to be Democratic enough to win enough Democrats, Republican enough to win enough Republicans, and to do that in a way where he doesn't anger Independents.  Not exactly the easiest thing to do, when Democrats now have a plausible alternative in Meek and Republicans in Rubio.

I think Schale is right that in a three-way race, Charlie Crist can't win. But Schale does not consider Crist's most plausible path to victory. It goes something like this: The weekend before the the November 2 election, Crist is trailing Rubio by single digits, while Meek is trailing by double digits--say it's Rubio 39 percent, Crist 34 percent, and Meek 25 percent. At that point, some Meek supporters logically start moving to Crist as the only one who can beat Rubio.

As Rasmussen's latest poll showed, a lot of Meek supporters say they would consider voting for Crist:

Seventy-six percent (76%) of Rubio supporters say they are certain of how they will vote and that they won’t change their mind before Election Day. Just 48% of Meek’s voters say the same, while 45% of Crist supporters are that certain. This suggests that the race could follow the typical pattern of three-way races with either Meek or Crist slipping out of contention and watching their support drift to the other.

Meek supporters who might switch their vote are overwhelmingly considering Crist as their option.

Perhaps Crist would get a big boost from endorsements by big-name national Democrats in the 11th-hour. But the real wild card in this scenario is Meek himself. It's possible that, under pressure from party leadership, Meek would endorse Crist and turn the election into a two-way race.

Think that's never going to happen? Remember NY-23. Liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava, who had fallen back into third place, endorsed Democrat Bill Owens. That endorsement was probably enough to help Owens surge past Conservative party candidate Doug Hoffman on election day.

Yes, there are big differences between NY-23 and the Florida Senate race: Rubio is a much more impressive candidate than Doug Hoffman. Rubio might be able to pull off a win even if Meek endorses Crist at the end of the campaign.

For Crist to keep Meek polling down in the 20s, he's going to have to throw everything he's got at Meek. That could spoil his hopes of winning a Meek endorsement and/or Meek supporters.

And Crist could easily be the one to fall far back into third place, as his Democratic supporters get to know and then decide to support the official Democrat in the race, Meek. So this is not to say that Crist's path to victory is likely, but it is plausible.

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