Politico: A Jeff Greene win would be a victory for Charlie Crist

From Jonathan Martin at Politico, news that is both good and bad for Kendrick Meek. The good news: leading Democrats would prefer him as the party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate. The bad news?

The emergence of a politically unknown billionaire self-funder in the Florida Senate race is prompting top Democrats in the state to say publicly what some have been whispering for weeks: If Jeff Greene, who got rich betting on the collapse of the housing market, becomes their nominee, many in the party will have the cover they need to get behind Republican-turned-independent Gov. Charlie Crist.

The idea of needing “cover” suggests that some big name Dems are already tempted to back Crist, and clearly, there’s not a ton of confidence out there that Meek will definitely pull off a victory in November. Perhaps most significantly, Democratic party people down here can’t stand Jeff Greene, who should not expect much help beyond his own wallet if he manages to win the primary. A bit more from the Martin piece:

Establishment Democrats in Florida, for now, are sticking with Rep. Kendrick Meek, who lags far behind in early general election polls against Crist and Republican Marco Rubio. Yet with Greene promising to drop at least $40 million of his fortune on the primary and pulling neck and neck with Meek in one survey, Sunshine State Democrats are beginning to consider the increasingly realistic prospect that their nominee might be a “meltdown mogul” — one who collects erotic art, had Mike Tyson serve as his best man and once hosted “Hollywood Madam” Heidi Fleiss as a house guest.

Faced with such an awkward possibility, many influential Democrats indicated that supporting Crist — who has quickly moved leftward since leaving the GOP — or just remaining quiet would be the better of the unenviable options.

Martin reports that “senior national Democrats” would likely “remain on the sidelines” if Greene were to be the nominee, but here in Florida, that’s not an option. Not with Marco Rubio trafficking in the kind of right wing extremism that makes lots of Floridians, Democrat and Republican, cringe. Democrats here won’t have the option of remaining on the sidelines. So Crist becomes the clear beneficiary of a Greene win. Martin points out that this has happened before, when Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton’s brother Hugh Rodham, and Democrats abandoned him in favor of moderate Republican Connie Mack (a Crist mentor, who incidentally, dumped the governor a couple of months ago when Crist went idie.) Last clip:

It all adds up to this: Crist, written off this spring after being effectively pushed out of the GOP by Rubio, could emerge as the de facto Democratic nominee this fall.

Or, as Broward County Democratic Chairman and former state Democratic Chairman Mitch Ceasar put it, Crist could head the “anybody but Marco campaign.”

“If polls indicate that Greene is down by 20 points, then Crist becomes more attractive because then, at least, you stop Rubio and extremism,” Ceasar said.

Florida Democratic officeholders, dreading the prospect of sharing the same ticket as Greene, are even blunter about what they might do should Meek lose.

“What a lot of us will have to decide is, do we stay out of the race or support Crist,” said one member of the Florida congressional delegation. “It will be tempting to endorse Crist.”

Of Greene’s big-money effort, this Democrat fumed: “The whole thing is obnoxious.”

Florida’s leading Democratic donors are also unambiguous about their distaste for Greene, and they fear the consequences of his winning the nomination.

“I think if Greene wins the primary, which I don’t think is going to happen, the conventional wisdom is it would help Charlie Crist,” said Chris Korge, a Miami-area real estate developer and party bundler. “A lot of the [Democratic] base won’t vote. Some will go to Crist.”

… There is no doubt, though, that Greene has Democrats spooked.

Steve Schale, a top Democratic operative in Tallahassee who ran Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008, said Greene’s TV campaign and his effective tie with Meek in the Quinnipiac poll earlier this month have awakened party leaders to the threat he poses.

Recalling a meeting he had with Democratic donors in Orlando last weekend, Schale said the common refrain was: “What are we going to do to help Kendrick get out of the primary?”

Read the whole Politico article here.

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