Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Marco Rubio the Next Howard Dean?

The Rubio campaign is indeed wishing that they had not peaked so early. Had things not gone so swimmingly for them earlier this year, things might not be going quite so pear-shaped for them now. If they had peaked AFTER the filing period, Crist might not have gone the NPA route and could have found himself stuck in a GOP primary with no good path to victory over Rubio.

But that’s not what happened.

There is still plenty of time and opportunity for Rubio to mount a comeback, but political prognosticators are already predicting a Crist victory (Fivethirtyeight says that the Senate is projected to have .6 “Crists” in it next year – which is a roundabout way of saying that he’s giving Crist a 60% chance of taking this seat) and Rubio is finding that the enthusiasm he once engendered is slipping away.

I am not, of course privy, to Rubio’s internal polling (as a Democratic operative, I wouldn’t expect to share this with me), but their strategy suggests that they are hoping to secure the GOP base (minus some moderates), cede true independents to Crist, and hope that Crist and Meek/Greene sufficiently split the Democratic so that the far right base is enough to win Rubio a plurality (barring an epic collapse wherein either Crist or Meek/Greene drop below 10 points – no one is likely to get an outright majority).

I say this become Adam Smith at the St Pete Times said that he “saw little sign of him reaching beyond tea party activists and archconservatives.”

Rubio himself said, “Truth be told, I'm running against two Democrats in this election. Only one of them will admit it,”

Both these statements imply that Rubio’s campaign believes that something along the lines of 35-40% will be enough to win in the current circumstances.

This is not the first time we’ve asked whether Rubio might struggle with losing his insurgency status. I have wondered for a while if Rubio’s campaign might not resemble Howard Dean’s in some critical ways.

These days, if Howard Dean is remember for his ’04 presidential campaign, it is for “the scream” (though he is more likely to be remembered as a highly successful DNC chair than for any aspect of his presidential campaign anymore).

But we shouldn’t let “the scream” distract us from the real factors that led to his downfall. Remember, he screamed only after blowing a seemingly insurmountable lead in the Iowa caucuses (he ultimately finished third in Iowa).

Dean was an insurgent candidate who rose based on significant strength in online contributions and support from the netroots/activist base. He rose in clear contrast to candidates who projected a more “moderate” image.

Sounds like a certain former speaker of the Florida House to me.

Dean’s meteoric rise was hampered by a failure to adjust to frontrunner status. His campaign had been designed to come from behind against the establishment. When he took the lead – he became the de facto establishment, winning the support and endorsement of key Democratic constituencies. And his operation did not know how to handle the change and couldn’t close the deal.

Does that also sound like Rubio?

It’s too soon to be sure – and Rubio does have something Dean didn’t have – the cautionary tale of the collapse of the Dean candidacy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Finally – Some Late Thoughts On That Meek-Rubio-Crist Thing Going On ‘Round Here

I’m coming very, very late to this game, but let me put my two cents in as regards the Meek-Rubio-Crist matchup. Specifically, the question of what might happen down the road as Crist seems to be hovering up an awful lot of Democratic support that might otherwise have gone to Meek.

The biggest question these days has a couple of components. The first is whether Meek can sufficiently solidify the Democratic base vote to get his numbers back up to a competitive level. In a one-on-one match up with Rubio, a number of polls have Meek competitive.

Don’t get me wrong – we were seeing numbers that gave Rubio a real advantage. But we were also seeing numbers that pointed to a narrow, but viable, path to victory for the South Florida Dem.

Initially, there was an expectation by many that Crist’s move to NPA (no party affiliation) status would make Meek’s path to victory a little wider. The position (and it was not irrational one) was that Meek, simply by retaining a good hold on the Democratic base vote, could win with something around (or even under) 40%.
In this scenario, Crist draws from Rubio and Meek, but his long history as a Republican meant that he would draw more from the latter than the former. With the registration edge that Democrats enjoy in Florida, Meek could sit back and let demographics do the rest.

Hasn’t quite worked out that way, though, has it?

Instead, virtually all of Crist’s growth has been from the Democratic side of the table. In fact, it seems almost certain that Crist is getting more support from Democratic voters than Republican voters.

A couple of factors are at work here.

First of all, Crist has always been well liked. He has always made an effort to be cordial and polite to prominent Democrats. These efforts are being paid back, with either explicit or de facto cover from many leading figures letting Democratic voters know that it’s “ok” to like Crist.

This situation is amplified by the fact that many Democratic officials now see Crist as the main hedge against extremist GOP elements in the legislature and do not want to drive him the other way.

I am constantly surprised by the number of Democratic pols and senior staff who, in private conversation, tell me that they, personally, like Crist a lot. Most are keeping quiet, but the undercurrent is there. And keeping quiet also means that many folks are not giving their supporters a strong signal that they should support Meek.
However, this is not all about Crist.

Meek’s efforts to get on the ballot via petition was a monumental effort, but it seems that something was lost in the process.

Part of this was not his fault. His achievement was unjustly swallowed up by the news cycle’s obsessive focus on Rubio’s rise relative to Crist.

Nonetheless, I suspect that something got lost in the mix on Meek’s end, as well. I am not now working nor have I ever worked on Meek’s campaign. I do not have inside information and I will happily accept correction, if I am wrong. But my suspicion is that there was a failure to properly integrate this effort into their other programs – field, new media, etc. My reasons for this is that I think that 145,000 petitions should result in some massive movement in terms of volunteer recruitment and list building and provide a strong base from which to, if not expand one’s polling numbers, at least stay above the mid-teens in a three way race. Yet here we are.

What next?

I foresee two basic scenarios that might play out.
Crist’s support has always been accused of being soft – a mile wide and an inch deep (which is part of the reason why it crumbled in a primary against Rubio). His support could collapse among groups now giving him the benefit of the doubt (especially if and when Crist says where he would caucus in the Senate and who he would support for Majority Leader) Democrats could come home and this could turn into a more traditional, two person race between Rubio and Meek, with Crist acting the part of spoiler and getting between 15-25% of the vote.

Democrats could not come home and significant number of leading Democrats, including prominent elected, begin throwing their support behind Crist. This could be for a few reasons – including Meek losing out to Jeff Greene or Meek simply failing to get his numbers up. The DSCC could cut Meek off and we might see a sort of shadow operation – probably a 527 – led by some well-known Democratic strategist, spring up and provide the sort of support a major party candidate would normally get from state and national party structures, particularly in the creation of a field infrastructure (the lack of which is Crist’s biggest structural weakness right now).

Rubio Confuses "Rational Thought" with "Flip-Flopping"

Marco Rubio is confusing stubborn, willful blindness with principled leadership.

He is trying to characterize his insistence on continuing to support offshore drilling as pragmatic, principled stand that sets him apart from “flip-floppers” like Charlie Crist.

Well, Rubio – you know who else is a “flip-flopper?” The people of Florida. Until recently, a majority of Floridians supported offshore drilling.

Funny how things change.

And, Mr. Rubio, that's not "flip-flopping" or "waffling" or whatever belittling designation you want to give it.

Actually, it's a sign that someone is applying common sense to their decision making process. When you change your position based on new facts that contraindicate your old views, you are not “flip-flopping.”

What Rubio would, in Crist, like to characterize as “a flip-flop,” is, in this instance, nothing more than a rational human being making use of the gifts God gave him – using his eyes to see the damage oil is doing to priceless treasures and his brains to come to the conclusion that the costs are not worth it.

Rubio says that drilling will happen anyway – that we might as lay back and try to enjoy it.

Well, Mr. Rubio, let me suggest to you that it is also true that there will always be people who will speed – but that’s not reason to get rid of speed limits around elementary schools.


I’m done ranting now. In the next posting (which will come sooner than they have lately, I promise – this is a busy time of year for me and blogging doesn’t actually pay the bills), we will get back to providing semi-dispassionate analyses of Florida elections.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Congressman Joe Barton (R-Petroleum) Thinks We Owe BP An Apology


Rep. Barton, in case you were wondering, this is why no one likes you, except for the oil companies who are too busy dumping tar balls outside my house.