Most people who focused on Charlie Crist’s self-immolation in the Republican primary figured that the next best option for a contested race in November would be if Crist switched to an independent or a Democrat. Kendrick Meek, the Congressman running unopposed in the Democratic primary at the moment, has been given little chance to win by many observers, and recent polling showed him behind either challenger by double digits. However, while that remains the case in a Meek-Crist matchup, in a head-to-head with Rubio, Meek fares pretty well, better than Crist in fact.
The general election scenario that would give Democrats the best chance at winning the seat is a straight on contest between Rubio and Meek. The Republican leads 44-39 in that match up, and because there are a lot more undecided Democrats (20%) than Republicans (12%) the race is realistically probably even closer than 5 points. Rubio benefits from a more unified party with 77% of Republicans already committed to voting for him compared to 67% of Democrats who say they’ll vote for Meek. But Meek leads 41-34 with independents, a very rare outcome in this political climate when independents are usually leaning strongly toward the GOP.
Crist, who holds 35/51 approval/disapproval ratings after having presided over harsh economic times in Florida, trails Rubio 43-34 if he chose to run as a Democrat, and trails 34-27 in a three-way race as an independent, with Rubio leading and Meek behind with 25%.
This is one poll, of course. But it’s plausible that Meek, not Crist, represents the best chance to take that seat from Marco Rubio. After all, he’ll be able to unite the Democratic Party better, and Rubio’s clear position as a Jim DeMint arch-conservative might not play well in purplish Florida, as opposed to the primary electorate. Democrats shouldn’t write off this race.