That Katie-bar-the-door, hold-on-to-your-butts, anything-could-happen-and-probably-will three-way Senate race down in Florida is turning out to be about as predictable as it looked like it was going to be back during primary season: once again, according to a slew of recent polls, the race is being defined by Marco Rubio’s momentum.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Republican nominee for Senate was supposed to be locked in an epic struggle with independent candidate Charlie Crist and Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek. It was to be the Octagon of politics this year — three men enter, one man leaves! — the moment that Crist’s political savvy and Meek’s ability to excite the Democratic base gave Rubio a run for his considerable political fortunes.
Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. To be sure, nothing is decided yet. Crist just went up with his first negative ad of the general election and he still has plenty of money kicking around to make it tough for the Republican as Election Day approaches. But as Rubio has shored up Republican votes and Meek has shown that the statewide Democratic organizing skills he showed off in the primary are no fluke, Crist is running out of runway to really get his independent bid off the ground.
Polls show Crist is running out of time, too. With each passing day, it seems, Rubio’s lead is increasing, meaning that Crist (and Meek, too, while we’re at it) needs to slow the popular and handsome Republican’s roll — and fast. If last Friday’s debate is any indication of how Rubio’s rivals are doing when it comes to tearing him down, it’s gonna be an uneventful trip to November.
The TPM Poll Average shows Rubio with 39.1% of the vote, Crist with 30.6% and Meek with 21.2%. As recently as Aug. 1, public polls showed Crist hanging onto a narrow lead in the contest. But since then, as you can see from the chart below, everything’s been coming up Rubio (and to a much lesser extent, Meek).
Doesn’t that graph look familiar? Back in the primary days, Rubio beat the heck out of Crist after most prognosticators said he had no chance. Mistaken sometimes as being part of that wacky tea party class of 2010, Rubio is actually a true across-the-board Republican rock star. Crist, on the other hand, is increasingly isolated — his plan to snag the Democratic mantle in November seemingly dashed by Meek’s primary win.
“Crist and Meek are likely splitting Democratic votes,” the Reuters news service wrote in a poll analysis last week. “When voters were asked their choice between Rubio and Crist if Meek was not in the race, the contest is essentially tied — Rubio 46 percent, and Crist 45 percent.”
When voters were asked their choice between Rubio and Crist if Meek was not in the race, the contest is essentially tied — Rubio 46 percent, and Crist 45 percent.
Meek, for his part, still thinks he can make Crist irrelevant by pointing out his embarrassing (from a Democratic perspective, anyway) past and running hard for Florida’s moderate, swing-statey base.
“I think it’s important we focus on getting people back to work,” Meek told Hardball’s Chris Matthews Monday. “In Florida we feel standing up for the middle class as I’ve done throughout this race is going to help us win this race.”
Rubio’s strategy is a bit less complicated, according to the polls. All he has to do is keep on doing what he’s doing.