The new survey of the Florida Republican Senate primary from Public Policy Polling (D) paints a horrible picture for moderate Gov. Charlie Crist. He not only trails conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio, but Republicans (and voters overall) massively disapprove of him as governor. In fact, Republicans are divided on whether they even want Crist to be a member of their party at all.
The top-line numbers: Rubio 60%, Crist 28%. Crist’s approval rating among Republican primary voters is only 29%, with 56% disapproval. Among voters overall, in numbers provided to TPMDC by Public Policy Polling, the once-popular governor’s approval rating is only 35%-51%. His best group is Democratic voters, who give him a 45%-41% edge, while Republicans are worst of all at 28%-58% (Note: Republican voters do not overlap completely with GOP primary voters, thus the numbers don’t exactly match), and independents are at 28%-58%. In the TPM Poll Average, Rubio leads Crist by 54.9%-30.0%.
A year ago, Crist seemed to be unstoppable. A Quinnipiac poll in February 2009, gave him a 67%-22% approval rating, and a lead over the unknown Rubio of 53%-3%. Since, however poll after poll after poll has seen Rubio catch and ultimately grab a big lead. It’s even reached the point where yesterday, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-TX) was explaining his endorsement for Crist from last year, and making it clear that the NRSC would not be spending money for Crist or saying anything bad about Rubio.
A big reason for Crist’s downward spiral is the fact that he supported President Obama’s stimulus bill in early 2009, and even held a rally with Obama to call for its passage in Congress — shortly before the rise of the Tea Party movement and conservative activism as we now know it. Crist tried to downplay or even deny his support several months ago, but has recently re-embraced it, acknowledging his support for it, and criticizing other Republicans who publicly opposed the stimulus but nevertheless took the money for their states.
Rubio, who has had success running to Crist’s right, has made Crist’s support for the stimulus into a centerpiece of his campaign. For example, he recently held a moneybomb fundraiser to coincide with one-year anniversary of that rally that Crist held with Obama. The Web page set up to conduct the fundraising event featured a picture of Obama and Crist about to hug during the rally.
The PPP survey more bad news for Crist, too. In addition, 50% of GOP primary voters said that Crist is too liberal, compared to 37% who say he is about right, and 6% who say he is too conservative.
Republican primary voters were asked: “Do you think that Charlie Crist should remain a Republican, become an independent, become a Democrat, or are you not sure?” The answer was Republican 43%, independent 15%, Democrat 26%. That’s right — it’s a close 43%-41% split among Republican primary voters on whether Crist should be in the party.
As was previewed yesterday, GOP primary voters were asked: “A year from now would you like to see Charlie Crist serving as Governor, as US Senator, or out of elected office?” The results: Governor 19%, Senate 14%, and out of office 56%.
And finally, Crist was tested in a hypothetical primary for governor against state Attorney General Bill McCollum, the presumptive GOPÂ nominee for the seat. And it turns out that Crist would probably not be able to get hisÂ current job back if he tried: McCollum 49%, Crist 35%.
Late Update: Crist campaign communications director Andrea Saul gives us this comment: “Polls like this reflect the mood of the electorate, and the electorate is in a bad mood. Ultimately, elections are about choices: this election will come down to the choice between an honest public servant with a strong conservative record in Charlie Crist and Miami lobbyist-politician Marco Rubio, who has traded on his connections for everything from $135 haircuts to fat lobbying deals. Charlie Crist will win this race and win it decisively.”
Late Late Update: Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos gives us this comment: “You don’t need polls to tell you Charlie Crist is desperate; that’s clear from his bitter and bizarre personal attacks against Marco Rubio. Polls fluctuate, and we know Charlie Crist will use every dime of his multi-million dollar attack machine to drag Marco down into the mud. Marco will not respond in kind. Whether he runs as a Republican or chooses to formally abandon the Republican Party, Charlie Crist will run a relentlessly negative campaign. But in the end, his support of the failed $787 billion stimulus, bailouts, bigger government and higher taxes will prevent him from winning the trust of voters.”