The Senate race in Florida is coming into the final laps with Tea Party candidate Marco Rubio ahead of still Republican Governor Charlie Crist. According to an April 12th Rasmussen poll, Rubio’s 57% is a commanding car length ahead of Crist’s 28%.
Crist’s numbers fell a sharp six points since March. Such a dip is likely the result of the Governor’s striking down of Florida’s Senate Bill 6 last week. Senate bill 6 was a measure shoved through Florida’s congress by Republican leaders in a 2:30am vote on April 10th attempting to reform the state’s education system by denying tenure to new teachers and basing their pay directly on student performance. Crist vetoed the bill praising it’s intentions but ultimately finding the means “significantly flawed”. The bill was popular among Crist’s Republican base and his own campaign chairman, former U.S. Senator Connie Mack (R), resigned in response to the decision.
A falling out with Florida Republicans has led to innuendos of a possible Independent ticket switch for the Governor. The veto of Senate bill 6 came with cheers from Independent and Democratic voters as well as praise from teachers’ organizations throughout the state. Approval of the decision has indicated a possible broad support base for Crist to run independently, making this race a three party run. As of yet, the Crist campaign has not confirmed the ballot switch.
Rubio, former Speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives, has ridden to popular heights on the shoulders of the Tea Party movement with his promise to return the country to it’s conservative roots. Demonizing government spending and the pure waste of the stimulus bill, Rubio’s campaign focuses on aligning Crist with Obama by highlighting the ‘hug heard ‘round the world’. It appears that Rubio believes some Socialism rubbed off in the encounter as his many statements on Crist claim that the Governor has fallen out of lock step with the Republican Party’s conservative values. Former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney announced the most recent endorsement of Rubio’s campaign on April 17th.
The Crist campaign continues to point out that the fiscally conservative Senate hopeful Marco Rubio still has not made public its questionable accounting of Party funds during last month’s round of mud-slinging. The Governor has posted his own tax return online and issued a challenge for Rubio to do the same.
As one of the hottest political battles this season, many eyes are on a Florida that went purple for Obama in 2008. The primary is still a few months away and with Crist focusing more on governing a state than running for Senate his lag in popularity may only be temporary. Rubio will not be easy to catch in the numbers but with an Independent run Governor Crist may be able to draft Rubio down the last leg and slingshot past on election day.