Marco Rubio is dominating in the polls in Florida's three-way Senate race as independent Governor Charlie Crist and Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek evenly divvy up voters outsider the GOP base. Our Election Oracle model currently has him as a 70 percent favorite to win, a number that probably understates his lead if anything. But The Wall Street Journal reports that Republicans are girding for a potential game changer if Meek drops out.
Their story is based more on signs and murmurs than solid reporting, but they do note that Crist has spoken with Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid denied to reporters in July that the two discussed anything political after Crist told the Journal the two had spoken. Before Meek began consolidating the Democratic vote, Crist was in the lead in many polls and if Democrats conclude Meek can't win, it could be in their interest to throw their weight behind the governor, especially given his recent swing to the left. Rubio is well below 50 percent in the polls and still potentially vulnerable in a two-candidate race. Meek's camp is moving quickly to deny the story, however, and if Democrats want Crist as their man, they may find their current candidate won't go quietly.
Meek's campaign reps tell the Florida Independent that their candidate "laughed out loud" when he heard about the Journal story. “I’m taking a stand against the radical right. Marco Rubio has always been the Tea Party candidate and yesterday Charlie Crist says he wants to crash the Tea Party, too. I’m the only candidate who’s fighting for the middle class and I’m not going anywhere except the United States Senate,” Meek said in a statement. “If you want to stop the privatization of Social Security and Medicare, stop more tax cuts for the wealthy, stop more special interest tax breaks, stop more environmental destruction, and stop more jobs being shipped overseas, I’m asking you to take a stand with me."
It's easy to see why some Democrats are open to the idea of him leaving the race, however. Meek dropping out could set up Democrats for a potential silver lining in an otherwise disastrous year. If they manage to hold off Tea Partiers Rubio in Florida, Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, and perhaps Rand Paul in Kentucky, there will be a lot of stories questioning whether the Republicans' turn to the right was worth losing multiple seats that could likely have been won with conventional candidates.
Benjamin Sarlin is the Washington correspondent for The Daily Beast and edits the site's politics blog, Beltway Beast. He previously covered New York City politics for The New York Sun and has worked for talkingpointsmemo.com.