The national media zeitgeist certainly would love to see it happen — the first independent Senator, from the super-swing state of Florida! And there are an uncomfortable number of Democrats who want it too, since they see Crist as the best deterrent to a Senator Marco Rubio. But can Charlie Crist really win the U.S. Senate seat from Florida? Steve Schale, who ran the Obama campaign in Florida in 2008 and who is advising Alex Sink now (and who knows a thing or two about numbers) says … um … no.
For Crist to win the United States Senate race, he would need a formula that looked something like this:
33% of the Democratic vote
33% of the Republican vote
50% of the NPA vote.
This formula would get him a vote total of 36-37%, a likely win scenario in a highly competitive three way race, where all three candidates are scoring in the thirties.
Here is one problem: Rubio is limiting him to 20% of the Republican vote. If Rubio keeps him at 20% of the GOP vote, Crist needs to get 45% of the Democratic vote in order to win, and according to the latest PPP poll, Crist is only at 38% today with Democrats.
But the bigger problem is he is falling into the same place as many other long time office holders: his personal approval numbers are plummeting. He no longer has that deep well of cross party lines personal support built up that allows him to transcend normal political divides. Instead, he now has to block and tackle like everyone else. In this political environment, absent some significant and unfortunate event that would thrust him back into the spotlight, the odds of him finding 15-20 points of political approval in the next nine weeks are slim, at best.
Therefore, for Crist, who after 20 years of being a GOP insider, his only path to victory is to find a way to be Democratic enough to win enough Democrats, Republican enough to win enough Republicans, and to do that in a way where he doesn’t anger Independents. Not exactly the easiest thing to do, when Democrats now have a plausible alternative in Meek and Republicans in Rubio. If Greene had won, it might be a different story.
Schale’s conclusion about who now has the clearest path to victory is sure to give Democrats agita (I won’t spoil it for you. Read the whole post here.) But Schale’s thesis is bolstered by the Beth Reinhard piece today on Crist’s agonizing attempts to triangulate between the two parties, both of whose bases he needs to poach in order to win. And the pollsters at Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling seem to be coming to the same conclusion, focusing most recently on Crist’s falling approval ratings, and his quandary over saying, or not saying, who he’d caucus with in the Senate.
Of course, nothing is set in stone, and Crist is still the best known of the three candidates, with the power of the governorship at his media disposal. The only two things that are certain in this race are that 1) it will ultimately come down to what Democrats ultimately decide is in their best interests, since Republicans are pretty much sewn up, and that 2) it be one of the most interesting races in the country.
I’m re-racking a poll I did last month, which I suspect was a bit tainted by people’s personal preferences in the primary. Now that the primary is behind us, let’s try it again. Here we go: