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.