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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Crist Doesn't Have Much Room for Growth

It’s all wishful thinking by the left right now, but Dailykos posits a hypothetical situation wherein Charlie Crist pulls an Arlen Specter or a Joe Lieberman and either switches to the Democratic primary (a la Specter) of goes independent (a la Lieberman).

Why would the incredibly popular, well tanned, handsome, and sensitive Republican governor switch parties?

The Club for Growth is very close to endorsing Marco Rubio. While that may not mean a lot to the average voter, let me just say that the Club for Growth is almost singlehandedly responsible for Specter switching parties.

They are the biggest, baddest bundler of donations of hardline, anti-tax conservatives in the nation. The money the raised brought Specter within a hair’s breadth of losing to Rep. Toomey in 2004 and turned Toomey into the unassailable leader in Pennsylvania’s GOP primary, driving Specter to switch parties.

Most of you probably saw the poll that shows Crist and Rubio in a statistical dead heat among voters who know who both candidates are (Rubio has relatively low name recognition statewide). The fact is, the Club for Growth and the endorsement of national Republicans like Mike Huckabee (who can help Rubio among evangelical Republicans) have the potential to introduce Republican voters statewide to Rubio.

Crist’s problem is that he already very well known. He’s polling at just over 50%, which is good (you'd still rather by Crist than Rubio right now), but he also has no where to go but down. He’s been in statewide office for years – as Governor, as Attorney General, and as Commissioner of Education. Voters know who he is. The only surprises that GOP primary voters are likely to discover about him is just how bad the budget situation has gotten under his watch and how much worse it is likely to become.

I don’t think that Crist is likely to leave the Republican Party – but I don’t think he campaign handlers are any illusions that this will be the cakewalk en route to the 2016 presidential election that they’d hoped for.

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