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Cristpalooza Begins

Ladies and Gentlemen, you only thought Florida politics was crazy.  Well today it just got even more interesting.

So, can he do it? 

Only a fool would say for sure.  I have made pretty compelling cases all week for all three of them, because all three have strong arguments why they will win.  It is jump ball Florida.

But back to Crist.  On the numbers alone, he has a hard row to hoe.  Assuming a win number of 35-36% (I doubt we will see a 34-33-33 race), he needs to get roughly 50% of the independents and 30-35% of the vote in both parties, a very difficult challenge.

The challenge, as Rubio's people pointed out today, the independent vote in Florida isn't as big as some people think. Even on its best day in November, NPA and minor party voters will probably only make up 18% of the electorate, so even if Crist gets 50% of the vote, he only nets 9 points of total statewide vote.    Here is why his challenge is so daunting:

Independents (18% of vote):  50%  = 9 statewide points

Republicans (40% of vote):   35% =  14 statewide points

Democrats (42% of vote):   30% =   12.6 statewide points

Total= 35.6 %

Is that doable math?  Sure.  Is it a long shot?  Absolutely.  Here's why:

Look at the Meek math.  Right now, Rubio is clearly going to try to tie Meek and Crist to Obama, but with the President hovering around 50% approval in Florida, that could be a risky strategy.  If Meek can solidify Democrats to rally around the President for him, he will likely win this thing, even with just a tiny portion of Republicans and Independents.  Here's how:

Independents (18%):   20% for Meek = 3.6 statewide points

Republicans (40%):    3% for Meek=  1.2 statewide points

Democrats (42%):   80% for Meek= 33.6 statewide points

Meek total statewide vote:  38.4%

Play with the math, and you can all of the sudden make the same case for Rubio.  And of course, there is easily a scenario where both Meek and Rubio both get near 40, and Crist barely emerges into the 20's, though my hunch is this could be razor tight with all three above 30.

All three candidates are incredibly talented, and all three have tremendous challenges.  For Meek and Rubio, it is introducing themselves to the state.  Meek has low statewide name ID, and Rubio is only slightly higher.  Buyiing name ID is expensive, which is why first time candidates for Governor and Senator tend to struggle.

For Crist, he has to make the case to 1/3rd of all partisans that vote in an off-year election that they are better off with an independent than one of their own.  Plus he has to figure out how to raise the cash without a party apparatus, and put together a team talented enough to win statewide in a place like Florida.  Neither are easy tasks

But at the same time, all three have really interesting paths and in the case of both Meek and Rubio, some interesting choices to make.  Do you solidify the family or do you try to take away the middle?  Either way is a potential path.   This is political chess at its finest, and any of them can win it. 

For me, this race is going to boil down to Charlie Crist.  He has virtual universal name ID and generally high approvals.  At the top of his game, Crist is as good as anyone who plays it.  Will his new found freedom set him on a new course, or will he get drawn into the weeds, as Rubio did to him in the primary?  If Charlie is Charlie, he can win.  No one likes the lights more than Crist, and for the next six months the lights will shine brightly on him as both candidates take shots at him as they work to secure their own base.   Lose and its take your fan and go home.  Win and you transform Florida politics.  

This is unchartered territory.  This race has no peer group.   There are more questions than answers (I have a whole blog on that subject coming soon).  So sit back, and relax and look keep an eye out on the street for Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd and John King because one thing is for certain, we are all going to have a front row seat to political history, right here in Florida. 

Cristpalooza begins today. 


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Reader Comments (12)

great writing; great analysis !

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjoan mckniff

At the top of his game, Crist is as good as anyone who plays it.

Of course the problem is that Crist hasn't been at the top of his game in recent memory. He was so far ahead of Rubio in the GOP primary that Rubio was declared the "insurgent" who faced an uphill battle. It was Crist's nomination to lose.

Now, at the end of April, Crist has come to terms with the fact he'd be destroyed by Rubio in the nomination fight. He doesn't even have a chance to win the Republican nomination just months after it was assumed he was the nominee.

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBenson

I think Meek is a very weak candidate- a black liberal Democrat in a (somewhat southern) conservative state. I think there is a good chance Meek will go into meltdown, Crist will take the Democratic vote, and we'll have a two-way race between Crist and Rubio.

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Sorry but this one is Rubio all the way. Meek is a non-starter all the way. Crist has a reputation as an unprincipled opportunist and by going Indie he only solidifies the perception. He has made dozens of missteps already and those missteps will follow Crist all the way to November. Further, where is Crist going to get the money he needs? If it comes from the wrong source he will be crucified. This is a Conservative state. Crist should have taken his lumps and saved himself for a 2012 run against Nelson. Bad move.

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

Crist and Meek will split the Democrat vote. Independents don't like big government aka Crist/Obama stimulus. And Marco gets an energized Republican party with Independence flocking to his campaign! Marco wins BIG!

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCOWBOY BILL

Independent voter here in very conservative area. As soon as Crist says he is going independent, I will log onto his website and make a donation. I tend to be a liberal moderate and I believe there are many more like me in the State. Meek with suffer because this is a Southern state (wish I didn't live in an area where I see racism daily). Many moderates do not feel comfortable with Rubio's extreme right learning conservative push. I vote NO for the Party of No.

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterp'cola

I'm a registered Independent in Florida, watching Crist make a courageous decision to forgo any monetary support from the party of NO! Positions I favor are social liberal, fiscal conservative, environmentalist all the time, which is where President Obama, that very smart man, is surely guiding our country. Strong support from me and others who care deeply about our whole country's well-being on all fronts will help send a good man to the U.S. Senate.

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterindependent

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