On Thursday a week ago the Wall Street Journal reported that Kendrick Meek, Democratic nominee for the US Senate in the race against tea party candidate (and Republican nominee) Marco Rubio, might drop out of the race to unite forces with Crist and defeat Rubio. That story gave rise to much speculation and renunciation.
The Quinnipiac poll released today shows numbers unchanged since September. Rubio is far ahead (44%) in the three-way race with Crist at 30% and Meek at 22%. But another poll released yesterday by Public Policy Polling (described as a Democratically-oriented polling firm) tests the numbers in a two-way race with Rubio facing either Crist or Meek. Rubio still beats Meek, but a hypothetical contest between Crist and Rubio is a dead heat.
The Crist campaign denies having any part in trying to coax Meeks to withdraw. But yesterday Crist added to the list of Democrats who have defected from supporting Meek when he secured support from the Palm Beach Democratic People’s Choice PAC. Just this morning he added the endorsement of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.—suggesting, perhaps, a coalition of independents, moderate Republicans, and realistic Democrats brought together by their opposition to the tea party.
At the same time, though, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman and State Sen. Chris Smith are calling for Meeks to remain in the race. The Meeks campaign is saying that he is, under no circumstances, considering withdrawing. They contend that the whole story is the mother of all dirty tricks; a behind-the-scenes creation of the Crist campaign.
Currently governor of Florida, elected as a Republican, Crist’s decline in popularity among Republicans that led to his loss in the primary began with his literal embrace of President Obama in support of the stimulus package. Now that Crist has become an NPA (No Party Affiliation) candidate and moved to the left on numerous issues, there is speculation that he might even caucus with Democrats in the Senate—though he insists he will “caucus with the people.”
The President was in Florida supporting Meek this past weekend, though some bloggers are suggesting that the offer of an ambassadorship for Meek in exchange for withdrawing might create the only possible avenue to defeat Rubio. But whether he withdraws or not, Meek’s name will still be on the ballot as the Democratic nominee.
For their part, conservatives (who these days in Florida seem to all be tea partiers) seem united behind Rubio, with his tea party version of Constitutionalism and his view of America as a Christian nation. I wrote about Rubio’s endorsement by David Barton here.
Though Constitution Party Candidate Bernie DeCastro argues that Rubio is a liberal, he hasn’t been able to get much traction. The only real division on the Republican side seems to be over whether they want Rubio in the Senate for a full term, or as a candidate for President in 2012.
Y’all just gotta love Florida politics.