Should we call him Charlie Crist (Political) Superstar? A new Florida poll shows former Gov. Charlie Crist utterly decimating Florida Gov. Rick Scott in a race for the Governor. It’d be Back to the Future for Crist — a once highly popular Florida Republican demonized and ostracized by many Republicans because he dared to praise President Barack Obama. He was considered the very worst thing of all: a m-o-d-e-r-a-t-e. By the time he had considered running for Senate, he was toast among Republicans after talk show hosts who set trending (and thinking) for many Republicans were through with him. He was literally forced out of the GOP and became a Democrat.
Recent efforts by some conservatives in the Republican Party to teach New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie a lesson usually involve a warning that he could be the “next Crist.” But the poll suggests this next Crist could cruise back to the governorship — this time as a Democrat. And do it with a big margin:
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist easily beats the Sunshine State’s current Gov. Rick Scott in a gubernatorial matchup, according to a new poll Wednesday.
Crist — who switched to the Democratic Party after having served as a GOP governor — gets 50 percent while the Republican Scott pulls in 34 percent, with the remainder being undecided or not answering, according to a Quinnipiac Polling Institute survey.
It’s hard to believe Scott — one of the most disliked Governors in the country — is going to get a big chunk of the undecideds even if, as expected, he runs one of the most expensive governor’s re-election campaigns in American history. And note this tidbit:
The poll shows that Crist’s political party hopping may have helped him a little — 50 percent of those surveyed say his change from the Republican Party to independent and now to the Democratic Party is positive, while 40 percent view it as a negative.
“The fact that voters think it’s an asset that former Gov. Charlie Crist moved from conservative Republican to a Democrat with very different political views will be a key metric to watch between now and the 2014 voting,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “These numbers indicate Republicans will have a tough job turning around Crist’s lead over Scott by reminding voters of Crist’s evolution.”
That will particularly be tough if the highly touted Republican “rebranding” goes where it seems to be going: nowhere. Even the long-awaited GOP “autopsy” on the 2012 national failure of the Republican Party has been met in many Republican quarters with rejection. Unless the autopsy said what some of the GOPers wanted (whatever Rush Limbaugh wanted) it will be ignored or rejected.
So trying to diss Crist on the fact that he walked away from a brand many voters increasingly don’t like may not be a political winner.
Crist has not said if he intends to run again for governor, and it is largely expected that Scott will seek reelection.
Betting: if he hasn’t seriously considered getting in now, Crist will with polls like this.
Rick Scott’s approval numbers have seen no improvement over the last two months, even after his decision to allow Medicaid expansion in Florida. 33% of voters continue to approve of the job he’s doing to 57% who disapprove. Although his overall numbers are the same he has seen a slight improvement with Democrats (from 21/71 to 23/69) and a slight downgrade with Republicans (from 49/38 to 46/42).
Scott continues to trail Charlie Crist by double digits in a hypothetical match up, 52/40. That’s just a slight improvement for him from January when he was down 53/39. Crist, who still has a 28% favorability rating with Republicans, wins over 29% of the Republican vote and also has a narrow lead with independents at 47/41. Crist still isn’t as popular as he used to be- a 46/43 favorability rating- but that’s good enough against the backdrop of Scott’s unpopularity to give him a pretty substantial early advantage.
Scott does poorly against some other potential Democratic candidates too. He trails Pam Iorio 44/37 and Alex Sink 45/40. He does at least lead Nan Rich 42/36.
Democrats though pretty much seem to be on board with Crist. He has a 66/24 favorability rating with Democratic primary voters, and 50% of them would like for him to be their candidate next year compared to 21% for Sink, 9% for Iorio, and just 3% for Rich. 16% aren’t sure who they’d like their standard bearer to be next year.
Scott might actually have more trouble winning his party’s nomination than Crist has with his. Only 42% of Republican primary voters say they want Scott to be their candidate again next year to 43% who say they would prefer someone else. It’s moderate Republicans who really want to dump Scott (34/55) while ones identifying as ‘somewhat’ (43/38) or ‘very’ (46/42) conservative tepidly support him. Scott does at least lead named potential primary challengers at this point- it’s 46/27 over Pam Bondi, 48/24 over Adam Putnam, and 54/13 over Ted Yoho.
So it might be an election between Charlie Crist Political Superstar against Not So Great Scott (if these numbers hold).
Photo Credit:2006 photo via The Orlando Sentinel
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.