The Rubio people are sounding awfully confident about victory in November with Charlie Crist now running indie. Maybe they shouldn’t be.
Rubio used to be the marquis player in the Florida race for U.S. Senate. Now, Charlie Crist is. Rubio used to soak up so much oxygen, nobody even mentioned Kendrick Meek. Now, Meek has an equal shot at the seat, and at the media coverage. And Rubio used to be the darling of the tea party movement, which gave him a clean shot at locking down the entire conservative base, so he could afford to ease gently over to the middle. Well … Nobody’s really talking about it, and it may not really be a factor in the end, but there will be another conservative on the ballot in November, who is more purely authentic to tea partiers, and who doesn’t carry the baggage of a certain credit card spending scandal into the race.
I exchanged emails with a prominent tea party player who is connected to the Central Florida tea groups yesterday, and they pointed out that tea partiers have been following Amexgate, and while some give Rubio a pass, not everybody does. Meanwhile, recalling that tea partiers really fall into two camps — Palinites and Paulites, it’s safe to assume the Palinites will be all Rubio. The Paulites? Not so much. Not when there’s an actual Libertarian in the race. Below is a press release sent out by Libertarian candidate Alex Snitker today. It’s shall we say, interesting …
Is Rubio Losing His Shine With The Tea Parties?
A few weeks ago, Florida Republican U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio looked like he would be sailing into Washington with the political winds of talk radio and the tea parties at his back. But today, it seems like Marco is slightly adrift with this once-solid base.
With an embarrassing GOP credit card scandal, and now an independent challenge from formidable rival Charlie Crist, what seemed to be a slam dunk primary win has turned into an even-odds general election race. And, with Libertarian candidate Alexander Snitker nipping at his heels, he could be quickly become mired in a two-front battle for conservative hearts and minds.
“The shine is coming off the ball with Marco Rubio,” said Jason Hoyt, co-host of the Tea Party Patriots Live radio show. That sentiment is being echoed by tea party groups around the state, prompting many to take a deeper look at Rubio’s past – with some not liking what they find.
“My first impression is [Rubio] being an attorney, Speaker of the House, a lobbyist, he’s been in politics for a while…he’s pretty much what we’re trying to replace,” said Jay Jacobs, events coordinator of the Baker County Tea Party.
The tea party groups don’t appear to be the monolithic voting blocs that the Rubio camp was likely counting on. At any given tea party event, one is likely to find as many Ron Paul supporters as there are Sarah Palin fans. A recent Politico poll reveals that tea party members are evenly split between the religious right and libertarians.
By most indications, Crist has little chance in courting a significant number of tea party voters. The TV ads touting Crist’s conservative record are nowhere to be seen these days. But, his strategic shift toward the political middle ground has gained him favor with centrist Republicans that would have normally supported the GOP primary winner. It’s likely that Crist will siphon votes from Democrat front runner Kendrick Meek as well.
Religious conservatives still seem to be solidly in Rubio’s camp. However, he faces a difficult dilemma on whether to court more moderate Republicans voters, or try to gain ground with libertarian-minded voters, knowing that placating one group may risk alienating the other.
Not long ago, Rubio enjoyed a strong home-field advantage in talk radio. But over the past few weeks of endless on-air discussion and prognostication about the Florida Senate race, a slightly different picture seems to be emerging.
“I know this is being looked at as a three-way race,” talk host Bud Hedinger told his listeners on AM 540 in Orlando yesterday. “But there are other candidates in this race, and it might be time to look toward a guy like Alex [Snitker].”
Lately, even TV and radio icon Glenn Beck has been leaning more and more libertarian. Though Rubio has been a frequent guest on his shows, Beck told his radio audience last week that Snitker was, “the type of Libertarian I could go for.”
Voter frustration with both major parties is a bellwether of this election cycle. Fiscal conservatives have become disillusioned with Bush for his deficit spending and ballooning the debt, while many social liberals are growing angry at Obama for the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and support for the Patriot Act.
Couple that with historically-low Congressional approval ratings, plus a strong sentiment against career politicians in general, and the political pump may be primed for a third-party candidate to take the fast boat to Washington.
Now keeping in mind that this is a campaign press release, it does raise an interesting question: if it takes 34 percent of the vote to win the election, with three candidates in the race, what would it mean to the “conservative” candidate in the race to lose 2 percent? What about 3 percent? What about 5? Snitker has qualified for the ballot. He has some support among Central Florida tea partiers, and on right wing talk radio. In February, when the Orlando Tea Party held a straw poll (admittedly, with just 1,000 people,) Snitker got 22 percent of the vote — Rubio got 66 percent and Crist just 4 percent. Take that 1,000 people, and make it a telephone poll (that’s about the size of the decent ones.) And let’s even be generous and take the junky Rasmussen poll, which gives Rubio 37 percent in a three-way race. Well 22 percent of 37 points is 8.1 points. Cut that in half, just for perspective, and that’s 4 points. 37 percent minus 4 percent is 33 percent — not enough to win. Of course, this is all just fun speculation, since Snitker is totally unknown in the state, and who knows if he even has the money to mount a credible run (he says he’ll raise about $2 million, which is next to nothing in a state with 10 media markets.) And there’s a question of whether he would be included in any debates, which would be his one chance of going at Rubio directly. But whatever Snitker (and the Constitution Party candidate) manages to take in the general election, even if it’s just 1 point, he takes it from Marco Rubio. Alex Snitker is Marco Rubio’s Ralph Nader (or his Ross Perot). And if he dings Rubio even by a couple percentage points in Central Florida or the I-4, where Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek are expected to do well (Snitker, an ex-Marine, is from Tampa, where he could theoretically camp out and pound his message home with whatever money he has…) Rubio finds it just that much harder to get to 34 percent.
Bonus round: Snitker’s name will be listed before Charlie Crist’s on the November ballot. Only in Florida…