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Marco Rubio would still beat Charlie Crist and Kendrick Meek in three-way race, poll shows

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From PPP: An independent Charlie Crist bid for the U.S. Senate would work to Marco Rubio’s advantage, because Crist would win more Democratic votes than Republican ones. In a hypothetical three-way contest Rubio leads with 34% to 27% for Crist and 25% for Kendrick Meek.

Crist gets 32% of the Democratic vote but only 18% of Republicans running as an independent. He also leads among independents with 35% to 24% for Rubio and 22% for Crist.

Crist’s overall approval rating now is a 35/51 spread. He’s most popular with Democrats at a 45% approval rating followed by independents at 29% and Republicans at 28%.

The general election scenario that would give Democrats the best chance at winning the seat is a straight on contest between Rubio and Meek. The Republican leads 44-39 in that match up, and because there are a lot more undecided Democrats (20%) than Republicans (12%) the race is realistically probably even closer than 5 points. Rubio benefits from a more unified party with 77% of Republicans already committed to voting for him compared to 67% of Democrats who say they’ll vote for Meek. But Meek leads 41-34 with independents, a very rare outcome in this political climate when independents are usually leaning strongly toward the GOP.

A Crist-Meek general election contest, which had looked like the most likely matchup for so long, would give Republicans their easiest shot at holding onto the seat. Crist leads Meek 46-33. He’s a stronger general election candidate because he gets 29% of the Democratic vote, compared to just 13% for Rubio, and because he wins independent voters by 10 points where Rubio loses them by 7. But given Crist’s standing for the primary at this point these numbers seem almost elementary.

In the most unlikely scenario- a full fledged Crist move to the Democratic Party- he trails Rubio 43-34. Although Crist does lead with independents he would take very few (13%) Republican voters with him across party lines and would be viewed with skepticism by a lot of Democrats, getting only 54% of their vote.

Taken as a whole the numbers suggest that Crist’s most winnable path to the U.S. Senate now is as an independent, given his huge deficit with Republican primary voters. But even that’s a long shot- among all Florida voters 24% want Crist as Governor a year from now, 15% want him in the Senate, and 47% would like to see him out of elected office. Crist finds himself now in a very difficult position.

Meanwhile the decline of Crist presents an opportunity to Democrats. Republicans are certainly still favored to keep this seat, but Marco Rubio as the nominee gives Dems a much better chance than Crist and this may yet be one of the most competitive races in the country this fall. Full results here. Update: Kendrick Meek’s campaign is already touting results of this poll:

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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