Senate 2010 Update: Crist Keeps Florida Republican

by: Chris Bowers

Mon May 11, 2009 at 12:00

Florida Governor Charlie Crist will run for Senate. This is very disappointing, as it moves Florida from one of the best potential pickups for Democrats to a Republican lock. Florida polling in the Republican primary shows Crist up 57%-11%, and in the general election by 49%-28% over likely Democratic nominee, Representative Kendrick Meek.

One ray of hope in the Florida Senate campaign is that the poll showing Charlie Crist ahead by 21% also showed him with 88% name recognition, compared to only 25% for Meek. It is possible that as Meek's numbers rise as he closes the name ID gap. Unfortunately, it is also possible that Crist will have much more money than Meek, and be able to define him in any potential advertising war.

Here is the latest Senate chart. With Florida removed from the equation, Democrats are now projected to gain only one seat:

2010 Senate Outlook: Net Democrat Gain of one seat, for a total of 61
Republican-Held Seats
Democratic Pickups: 3 (Missouri, plus two of Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Ohio)
State Type Democrat Republican High Margin Low Margin #Polls
MO Open Carnahan Primary D 10.5 D 2.0 2
OH Open Primary Portman* D 3.0 R 1.5 2
NH Open Hodes* Hypothetical D 3.0 D 1.0 1 / 3
KY Open Primary Grayson D 1.5 R 2.5 2
NC Incumbent Hypothetical Burr D 1.7 R 8.0 3 / 1
LA Incumbent Hypothetical Vitter R 9.0 R 9.0 1
AK Incumbent Hypothetical Murkowski R 8.0 R 24.0 1

Democratic-Held Seats
Democratic Losses: 2 (Delaware, plus either Connecticut or New York)
State Type Democrat Republican High Margin Low Margin #Polls
DE Special Hypothetical Hypothetical R 14.5 R 14.5 2
CT Incumbent Dodd Primary D 8.5 R 4.5 2
NY Special Gillibrand* Hypothetical D 15.3 R 4.0 4 / 2
CO Special Bennet Buck D 6.0 D 6.0 1
NV Incumbent Reid* Hypothetical D 6.0 D 17.0 1
IL Special Hyopthetical Hypothetical D 16.0 D 1.0 1 / 2
AR Incumbent Lincoln Hendren D 11.0** D 8.0** 1
PA Incumbent Specter* Toomey D 16.3 D 16.3 3
(Note: Senate elections where there is no polling showing the incumbent party ahead by less than 10.0% are not examined in detail. Pennsylvania included due to expected popular demand.

*= Faces primary, but currently the heavy favorite against other announced candidates

** = There is no polling in Arkansas is not for Lincoln vs. Hendren, so previous polling on Lincoln versus other candidates is listed in its place.)

The only Republican incumbent who appears to be threatened is Richard Burr in North Carolina (although it is possible that David Vitter might find himself vulnerable, too). Depending on recruiting, Republicans might end up with more legitimate pickup opportunities than Democrats in 2010. Should Republicans score a "moderate" wave of former Governor George Pataki in New York, Representative (and former Governor) Mike Castle in Delaware, Representative Mark Kirk in Illinois (although that looks increasingly unlikely), and if former Representative Rob Simmons in Connecticut (he faces a primary and hasn't raised any money), then they will be projected to win seats in 2010.

Perhaps we are running up against the limits of how many Senate seats one party can have these days. Notes on how to read the chart in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: Senate 2010 Update: Crist Keeps Florida Republican
How to read this chart:

  • In the "Type" column, "Special" refers to an election due to a Senate appointment. In the two candidate columns.

  • "Hypothetical" means there are no officially announced candidates for the party in the seat.

  • When there are official candidates who have been polled, no unannounced candidates are considered.

  • In the two polling columns, "High Margin" is the polling average for the best general election matchup for Democrats according to 2009 polling, and "Low Margin" is the worst average.

  • A dark blue color refers to a polling average that favors Democrats by 7.0% or more. Light blue favors Democrats by 2.7% to 6.9%. Yellow is between 2.6% for either party. Light red and dark red favors Republicans by the same margins as light and dark blue favor Democrats.

  • Backlashes appear in the "# of polls column" in states where a different number of polls were used in the "high margin" and "low margin" averages."

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The good news about Crist's run.... (4.00 / 2) that we have a very good shot at retaking the Florida governorship, and that's important since the governor appoints their SoS... considering all the election shenanigans going on down there, it would be good to have someone by our side in 2012.

Also, there is an outside possibility that Crist will be decimated by hardcore republicans in the primary.  The base DOES NOT like him at all!

We can also hope that Dodd will be primaried or be pressured to resign... and Delaware is only a problem if Castle is in... and Bunning still supposedly is running in Kentucky... so, we're not out of this just yet!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

they have really rallied behind Rubio (0.00 / 0)
It will be interesting to see what happens.  I'd bet on Crist, but it is not 100% a sure thing.

Lots of good stuff, as always, at Senate Guru.

New Jersey politics at Blue Jersey.

[ Parent ]
FL-Gov (4.00 / 1)
should not be underestimated, I agree.  We also have redistricting to consider.  Is a Senate seat worth a governor's mansion... and 3-6 House seats?

Tim Wolfe

[ Parent ]
Here is how Crist (4.00 / 2)
COULD get beat here.

The latest Quinnipiac Poll taken in April showed that by 46-22, voters did NOT want Crist to run for the Senate.  The Florida budget was saved by the Stimulus package and by resorting to a number of gimicks like raiding some of the State's trust funds.  IF the economy doesn't recover by next spring, the budget next year will be a complete disaster, and Crist will inevitably have to either cut spending of raise taxes.  If he does the latter Rubio might find traction in the primary.  If he does the former, a Democratic candidate might be able to paint Crist as a failed conserative governor who is running away from his problems.

Crist is an amazing fund raiser, is enourmously popular (he has 60-19 favorable rating among DEMOCRATS) but there is a lifetime between now and next November, and the budget crisis next year will be very real.  I don't think he is going to lose, but I do think that if the Democrats can find an attractive and well funded candidate we can make a race of it.

And that of course, is the problem.  Florida has only one statewide Democratic Office holder, and Democrats have had trouble raising enough money to be competitive.  

Agreed (4.00 / 2)
This is a good foundation for understanding Crist's vulnerabilities.  Put together a bruising primary fight and substantially increased name recognition for the Dem nominee, and we'll probably be in a position to see a whole new crop of them emerge.  Whether those vulnerabilities will be exploited or not is entirely different question.  But I definitely believe there will be at least two sets of vulnerabilities Crist will face.

p.s.  There's also the issue of Crist being a closeted gay--and his recent marriage/coverup.  His gayness would be a further liability with the GOP base, and his dishonesty could (or could not) be a problem with other voters as well.  No telling anything about whether this comes out, and if so how it plays.  Consider it the classical joker in the deck.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Oh now, Paul! You evil little thing you! (4.00 / 2)
Outing a closeted Republican! So Mike Rogers of you! ;)

[ Parent ]
I don't think (0.00 / 0)
the gay stuff hurt him at all.  I was pretty well known in the last cycle, and it is hard for me to figure out how a Democrat would benefit.  

[ Parent ]
A Democrat probably wouldn't. (4.00 / 1)
But a Republican could big time in the primary.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

[ Parent ]
Not so well known (4.00 / 1)
My brother is a Florida Republican.  He didn't know about Crist's sexual orientation.  I think it was well known among political junkies but was somewhat covered up from many base voters.  A nasty Crist-Rubio primary could get nasty indeed.

[ Parent ]
Still early (4.00 / 1)
Perhaps we are running up against the limits of how many Senate seats one party can have these days.

At this stage in the cycle two years ago and four years ago it didn't look like Democrats would win nearly as many Senate seats as were eventually won. Circumstances like scandals, wars, hurricanes, and Terri Schiavo dying can all have major implications.

If we could actually get some decent televised hearings about torture and the way the Republicans lied us into the Iraq war, then it would be hard for anyone with an R behind their name to get elected for a while. And if Obama/Congressional Dems would stand up to the banksters and health insurance industry, we might see a populist explosion that would also bury the Republicans for decades.

Good Point (4.00 / 1)
I think the Dems biggest problem is their scared-of-their-own-shadows approach.  If we were actually engaged in a bold and broad program of "change you can believe in," I'd say we should be headed for a 6 or 7 seat pickup.  Given that we're not, I think the figures Chris has gathered are hardly surprising.  But an awful lot can happen between now and election day, so the one thing I would say is certain is that nothing is certain.

We're not near any ceiling of possibility, in the abstract, though we may well be at the ceiling of concrete political competence, for the political moment, at least.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
In 2008... (0.00 / 0)
Actually, in May 2007, at this point in the cycle, the projected pickup by an average of forecasts was 1 seat. By Novemeber 2008 the projected pickup was 7 seats, and we ended up picking up 8.

See here for a graph from 2007-2008.

There's plenty of time for Dodd to turn CT around, and Castle might not run in DE (and even if he does his no on the stimulus package can hurt him). Crist might not even win the primary. It's way too early to make bold predictions.

See here for a graph of 2009 so far.  


[ Parent ]
The one seat we projected to win was in Colorado-(Wayne Allard was retiring). (0.00 / 0)
CO- race was between Mark Udall-D vs Bob Schaffer-R

August/September 2007- John Warner-VA announced his retirement and ex Governor Mark Warner-D announced his candidacy for the open VA US Senate seat.

October 2007- Pete Domenici-NM announced his retirement. November 2007- Tom Udall-D decided to enter the race.

June 2008- Jeanne Shaheen-NH decided to file her candidacy for the US Senate against John Sununu.

Summer of 2008- Oregon and North Carolina became statistical ties right after Merkley and Hagan won their Democratic Primaries.

Fall of 2008- Ted Stevens gets convicted on perjury charges.

[ Parent ]
Northeast? (4.00 / 3)
Currently every Republican pickup and all three "endangered" seats are in the Northeast.  I find it hard to believe that Democrats will lose more than one of those seats and more likely that they will lose none.

The history behind this is pretty clear.  The last time Republicans picked up a Democratic-held Senate seat in the Northeast was 1994 when they won an Open seat in Maine (was George Mitchell's became Olympia Snowe's and defeated Harris Wofford narrowly in PA (49.4% to 46.9%).  Wofford was elected to a partial term.  In fact, the last previous takeover was in 1980 (NH) making 3 seats in 30 years.

The last time Republicans picked up 3 Democratic Senate seats in the Northeast in a single election was in 1946.

Yeah, but in your heart of hearts... (4.00 / 1)
do you really think Republicans have a chance to win in New York?  

Especially with George Pataki (0.00 / 0)
Isn't this the same Pataki who had to retire in 2006 to avoid getting crushed by Eliot Spitzer?

I'm at a loss as to why New Yorkers would clamor to give him their vote again.

In fact, I don't understand why any Republican would have a chance in New York, unless the economy really tanks and/or Gillibrand turns out to be a huge dud (which so far she isn't).  Yeah, send someone who mostly disagrees with you ideologically to serve in a near-irrelevant minority.  Makes perfect sense.

[ Parent ]
Remember... (4.00 / 1)
Lieberman had a sixty percent approval rating in early 2005...things change.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

And... (0.00 / 0)
Is still in the Senate...

[ Parent ]
Apples and oranges. (0.00 / 0)
Remember, Lieberman lost the primary then ran as an independent.  While I don't know much about Florida election law, I'm willing to wager a pretty penny that won't be the case here.

Check out Blue Arkansas:

[ Parent ]

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