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We have all been led to believe, as we watch Charlie Crist's spectacular political decline, that in a head to head competition between either Marco Rubio or Crist and the likely Democratic nominee, Kendrick Meek that Meek is dead in the water.  Indeed, the polling that had come out up until now had suggested that prospects for Meek were quite unfavorable.  This, combined with Crist's fall, has led to a rash of speculation over whether Crist might consider running as an independent, or even jump parties.

But the PPP poll numbers released today, on top of yesterday's Crist-Rubio numbers (which received far more attention, I might add), suggest a very different story indeed (full results pdf here).  In a head to head matchup, Rubio's lead over Meek is only 44 to 39, while in a potential three-way matchup, with Crist running as an independent, Rubio garners 34% to Crist's 27% and Meek's 25%.  

Indeed, PPP's Tom Jensen says bluntly that

The general election scenario that would give Democrats the best chance at winning the seat is a straight on contest between Rubio and Meek.

Now these numbers are different enough from previous polls on a potential Rubio-Meek matchup that they should probably be taken with a grain of salt.  I found particularly startling the fact that according to PPP, independents favor Meek over Rubio 41 to 34, which is substantially different than previous results from other polling companies.  In fact, the only reason that Rubio is leading at all in this poll is that he has solidified his own party's support far more than Meek has:  20% of Democrats are undecided, vs. only 12% of Republicans.

(Crist, on the other hand, is far more popular among Democrats here than he is among Republicans.  If he by some miracle could win his primary -- and let's face it, it would take a political miracle of substantial proportions for this to happen -- he would lead Meek 46 to 33.)

As I said, given that they are somewhat surprising, we should take PPP's results as one data point for now.  Nevertheless, it definitely suggests that we should reconsider the narrative that the only way to avoid the catastrophe of having the far right Rubio win is to welcome Crist into the fold.  Perhaps the most important internal data from this poll are the favorability ratings:  Rubio is 31% fav to 32% unfav, with 37% not sure, while Meek is 17% fav to 20% unfav, with 63% not sure.  Meek is still a political unknown statewide, and as the campaign unwinds and he has an opportunity to define himself (in the midst of what promises to be an incredibly ugly GOP primary, if Crist does not drop out), things could get interesting.

In any case, all of this suggests that perhaps we give Kendrick Meek a second look before dismissing his chances out of hand.

-- Stu

Originally posted to sdf on Wed Mar 10, 2010 at 10:51 AM PST.

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