Poll: Crist Could Win Florida Senate Election As Independent

The new Quinnipiac poll in Florida provides further confirmation that Charlie Crist is on track to lose his Republican primary for Senate against the insurgent conservative Marco Rubio — but also suggests that Crist could potentially win the general election if he were to bolt the GOP and run as an independent.

In the Republican primary, Rubio leads by a margin of 56%-33%, compared to a 47%-44% Rubio lead in Quinnipiac’s last poll of this race in January. The TPM Poll Average gives Rubio a lead of 59.1%-27.9% in this primary.

But if Crist were to quit the Republican Party and run as an independent, this poll has him in a narrow lead among registered voters: Crist 32%, Rubio 30%, Meek 24%, with a ±2.8% margin of error.Crist has reportedly been urged by some supporters to run as an independent, though his campaign has repeatedly denied that he haas any intention of doing so. He has until the April 30 filing deadline to make his decision — Florida law does not allow a candidate to do what Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) did, to run and lose in a primary and then file for the general election as an independent.

If Crist were to stay a Republican, this poll shows him to be the stronger Republican nominee than Rubio in match-ups against Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek, though both he and Rubio lead Meek — Crist by 48%-34%, and Rubio by a narrower 42%-38%.

“Gov. Crist appears a great deal more viable in a November three-way than he is against Rubio in a Republican primary. But having already ruled out an independent candidacy, he would have to reverse himself by the end of the month due to the filing deadline,” writes Quinnipiac assistant director Peter A. Brown. “Such a public reversal might be politically harmful to the governor, but perhaps not compared to his chances against Rubio at this point.”