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).


At 6/27/2010 02:20:00 PM, Blogger ROBERT, THE INTERSTATE4JAMMER said...

Meek's problem is that outside of the Miami-Dade area, he is mostly an unknown entity by the average Democrat. While he has been running for a year and a half, he has not made enough of an effort to make many average voters, especially in north and central Florida, familiar with him. Most folks simply recognize his last name, since his mother previously held the Congressional seat he now fills.

Many Democrats who support Crist are doing so knowing that they may not agree with every position he takes, but he has at least told the GOP's right wing/tea party nuts where to jump off in at least a couple of important instances --- SB6 and the pregnancy bill.

At 6/28/2010 10:52:00 AM, Anonymous Campaign Manager said...

So tell me – do you see the scenario, as it is currently unfolding, as being primarily driven by Crist’s name recognition advantage?

You could make an argument that this even explains Rubio’s higher numbers – he got name recognition by virtue of contested primary with the man with 100% name recognition.
It’s still a case of Crist-Rubio sucking the oxygen out of the room, relative to Meek, but makes one of Crist’s positive attributes – his name recognition - the primary factor, rather than one of this negative attributes – lack of dedicated base – the primary factor in how this has panned out.

I had previously agreed with Steve Schale that Crist’s lack of a base was ultimate driver of this, and certainly, it was a huge factor, but maybe that cause us to miss those other dynamics, ones that are now driving Crist’s lead.

In any event – you can bet Rubio’s team was wishing they had peaked a little later. If they had, Crist might still be in the primary with him and Rubio would have had a much clearer shot at winning the whole thing.

Thoughts anybody?

At 6/30/2010 01:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you are a fool if you write Kendrick Meek off!


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