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Atlanta J-C weighs in on Charlie Crist, Marco Rubio

in Statewide by
Jay Bookman: The ultra-conservative wing of the GOP wants to make Florida’s Republican Senate primary a test case of its power. The race pits Gov. Charlie Crist, a moderate who had the audacity to endorse President Obama’s stimulus plan, against hard-core conservative Marco Rubio, a former speaker of the state House. Crist also just signed a new state budget raising the cigarette tax and various fees by $2 billion, an act that further fueled conservative anger.

Even worse, the moderate governor has drawn strong support from current Republican senators. He has been endorsed by Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, and has been promised financial and political support by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Some conservatives are so outraged by that fact that they are trying to organize a boycott of donations to the NRSC.

So what do the Republican voters of Florida think? A new Quinnipiac poll tells the story:

“Gov. Charlie Crist swamps former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio 54-23 percent in the 2010 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today….

“Marco Rubio says there are many Florida Republicans who don’t want Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate. Depending on how you define the word ‘many,’ he might be correct. Unfortunately for Rubio at this stage, many, many, many more favor Crist,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“Of course Rubio has more than a year until the GOP primary, and he’ll need it to turn the race around,” Brown added. “To prevail, he must get every undecided voter and win over some who favor Crist. Working against that possibility is that among Republicans, the only ones who can vote in the GOP primary, Crist’s favorability is 70-21 percent — compared to Rubio’s 24-8 percent, with 66 percent who don’t know enough about him to form an opinion.”

That’s great. I’m all for anything that threatens the grip of the hard-core right on the Republican Party, even if it also means that Republicans improve their numbers in Congress. It’s not good for the country to have one of its two major parties in effect disqualify itself from leadership by its extremism.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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