The latest PPP poll (PDF) shows Florida Gov. Charlie Crist holding on to his modest plurality in his independent bid for the United States Senate. Republican Marco Rubio comes in second, and the official Democrat is stuck in the teens. Despite being one of the most polled contests this year, the dynamic in the Florida Senate race has remained remarkably stable for weeks. This is the first poll I’ve seen that includes Libertarian Alex Snitker, who is polling in the low single digits and does not seem to have much of an effect on the race.
PPP (7/16-18) (PDF)
Charlie Crist 35
Marco Rubio 29
Kendrick Meek 17
Alex Snitker 4
Charlie Crist 38
Marco Rubio 29
Jeff Greene 13
Alex Snitker 3
The poll shows Crist gets a mild boost if self-financed millionaire candidate Jeff Greene manages to beat Kendrick Meek in the Democratic primary on August 24. Greene’s victory could be an even bigger gain for Crist than this poll indicates. Meek, as a long-time Democratic official in the state, probably has a fair amount of traditional Democratic-leaning institutional support. Greene likely does not inspire that same loyalty. If he wins the nomination, some liberal groups and individuals might back Crist with a clearer conscience.
I don’t foresee the dynamics of the race really changing at least until September, when the Democrats can start focusing full time on the general election. Even by then, the Democrats may have been polling in the teens for so long it might become impossible for their choice to break out of the trap of being viewed as a spoiler candidate.
The one piece of good news for Democrats is that 55 percent of Crist voters want him to caucus with the Democrats if he wins, and only 22 percent want him to caucus with Republicans. The tricky thing for Crist will be if he can keep that 22 percent if or when he is forced to say what party he plans to caucus with.
Crist is the perfect beneficiary of the current political environment, where voters are extremely disappointed with Democrats but also have little trust that Congressional Republicans will do the right thing. People can vote against the Democrats by selecting the independent Crist, without thinking they are giving Congressional Republicans more power.