A new Mason-Dixon poll reinforces the findings in a recent Rasmussen robopoll that had given Charlie Crist a 4-point lead over Marco Rubio in the three-way race for Senate. The M-D poll gives Crist an even larger 6-point lead (with the same 38 percent vote share), but it also has some big, red warning signs for the governor that could ultimately be good news for Kendrick Meek, if he can find a way to cut through the Crist-Rubio clutter.
Crist, who left the Republican Party last week to run as an independent, is supported by 38 percent of likely voters. Republican Marco Rubio is backed by 32 percent and U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the leading Democrat, is supported by 19 percent. About 11 percent are undecided, according to Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.
So where’s the good news in that, you say?
According to M-Dpollster Brad Coker, Crist’s problem is that Charlie’s base really isn’t his own:
He points out that 55 percent of Crist supporters are Democrats and that the governor is getting about 19 percent of the African-American vote. Coker said it is “very questionable” that those numbers will hold up as the campaign wears on.
Many of those voters will likely gravitate toward Meek, who is African-American, causing Crist’s numbers to tumble, he said.
“When you see that more than half of Crist voters are Democrats, that’s a big red warning sign,” Coker said.
Even if Crist holds his lead among independent voters, Coker said, it won’t “offset the likely loss of support among Democrats he will suffer as Meek increases his name recognition.” About 40 percent of voters still say they do not know who Meek is.
Rubio, meanwhile, appears well on his way to locking up the Republican vote. He gets 70 percent of that group, while Crist gets 18 percent. Among Democrats, Crist is polling at 48 percent, Meek is at 36 percent and Rubio is at 4 percent.
Something similar happened with Hillary Clinton, who led among African-American voters until Barack Obama proved he could win. One caveat, though: 19 percent is about the percentage of Black voters Crist won when he got the governorship in 2006, with only about 3 points of erosion, and in that race, the lieutenant governor candidate on the Democratic side of the ledger was Black. And not to put too fine a point on it, but Kendrick Meek is not Barack Obama, who built a tremendous marketing machine that created something of a cult of personality, particularly with young voters. Meek is a much more “bread and butter” candidate, who hasn’t shown signs that he’s going to do the political rock star thing, although there will be a tendency for Black voters to pull back toward him in the home stretch, provided they’re not already hardened Crist voters.
It also means that in order to win, Crist needs to pull to the left, in order to hold as many Dems as possible, which would bode well for a veto of the Tallahassee wingers’ abortion bill. That means that national Democrats may yet spend serious money in Florida, to bring the base vote home and deny it to Crist. If Meek’s numbers start rising, I see Obama robocalls and radio ads in his future (assuming Jeff Greene doesn’t find a way to buy the primary out from under him…) Meek’s other challenge will be white Democrats who aren’t hardcore partisans, but who are locking into Crist now (albeit before Democrats start hammering him for his former conservative views in television ads) — people like Victoria Marcus:
Another respondent, Victoria Marcus, 66, a retired accountant in Wynmoor Village in Coconut Creek, is a registered Democrat who backs Crist.
“I’m going for Crist. The guy is standing up for what he believes in. It’s what I believe in,” Marcus said. “Crist has a lot of guts. He had to leave his party. The Republican Party has gone so far right and so far off the wall that there isn’t a choice.”
Marcus said she knows little about Meek. “I don’t have that much of a feeling. I’m sorry for the gentleman. I’m sure he’s good. I really think Crist has earned it and deserves it.”
Bringing home the Victoria’s of the world will be Team Kendrick’s job one. (More good news for Meek fans: partisans tend to vote in primaries; soft Ds and Rs often don’t.)
The poll should make Rasmussen fans feel good, since it bears out their findings, although like the Rasmussen poll, this one has a pretty small sample size (625 respondents) and a 4 percent MOE. Still it’s still a pretty good indication of where the race is, as of today. The best known, most centrally-positioned candidate in the race is out front, which is exactly what you’d expect.
BTW, lost in all of this is Marco Rubio, who appears to be settling into a place where he is maxing out his base, and has very little room to grow (zero traction with Dems, and it’s not clear he can take many independents, or if so, how, when he’s still veering to the right on drilling, immigration, etc.) With 700,000 fewer Republicans than Democrats in Florida, these have not been good polling days for Marco.