The latest polling numbers for Florida Gov. Charlie Crist don’t look good: In the race for the senatorial nomination, Public Policy Polling has Marco Rubio clobbering Crist 60 percent to 28 percent. Even if you think that’s too high, some of the underlying numbers are consistent with other polls: Crist is massively unpopular with the conservatives he’ll need to win the primary.
The Quinnipiac poll that was the first to show Rubio ahead had Rubio leading Crist among conservatives by 52 percent to 39 percent. Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio later pegged the difference at 52 percent to 27 percent. Conservatives make up roughly two-thirds of the Florida Republican primary electorate.
So should Crist pull a Joe Lieberman and run as an independent? Crist told the Washington Times that he won’t, saying “proud to be from the party of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt.” But a Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll showed Crist could take a narrow lead in a three-way race against Democrat Kendick Meek and Republican Rubio, 33-32-27.
Those numbers might not hold up, however. Consider the Lieberman analogy. Joe Lieberman only narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont. Crist is on track to get crushed. The exit polls showed a critical mass of Lieberman’s Democratic supporters — not a majority, but just enough of them, close to 40 percent — said they’d stick with him if he ran in the general. Public Policy Polling only has Crist leading among moderate Republicans 49-36. How many of them would actually bolt the party for him? There was no viable Republican in the 2006 Connecticut Senate race, giving Lieberman a large majority of the Republican vote. There is a viable Democrat in the Florida Senate race. And Lieberman was the choice of independents. The jury is still out on that for Crist.
If Crist were to run as an independent, he’d look less like Joe Lieberman in 2006 and more like Arlen Specter in 2010.