Florida's Crist, once a golden boy, sees luster fade

By Sean Lengell-The Washington Times

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a rising “rock star” in the Republican Party only two years ago, may now be singing his political swan song, thanks to a young upstart who dared challenge the career politician’s once-solid Senate run.

Republican Marco Rubio’s support in the polls has jumped since the Florida primary elections last month, breaking open a once-tight race against the Republican turned independent Mr. Crist and the Democratic nominee, Rep. Kendrick B. Meek.

“Barring some unforeseen big anvil that hits Rubio and Meek … it’s looking like the race is starting to get out of reach” for Mr. Crist, said Aubrey Jewett, a University of Central Florida political science professor.

Mr. Rubio “is kind of cruising along right now, just trying not to screw up and basically just trying to surf the Republican/conservative/tea party tide. If he can do that, that’s probably enough.”

A poll released Saturday showed Mr. Rubio with 40 percent of voter support, comfortably leading Mr. Crist, with 28 percent, and Mr. Meek, with 23 percent. The Mason-Dixon Polling and Research survey of 625 registered voters shows 9 percent of voters are undecided. Other polls taken this month have shown Mr. Rubio breaking out to a double-digit lead.

As late as July, Mr. Crist – who left the Republican Party in April after polling showed him falling behind Mr. Rubio by double-digit margins in the primary race – held leads over his rivals in several nonpartisan surveys.

The shift in the polls is the result of a host of circumstances involving all three campaigns, political analysts say.

Mr. Rubio – the dapper 39-year-old former Florida House speaker and son of Cuban immigrants – has been pushing all the right campaign buttons. Unlike other “outsider” candidates this year, he has built a solid coalition that includes socially conservative “tea party” supporters, mainstream Republicans and party leaders.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/sep/26/former-gop-star-eclipsed/

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