For much of the past year, it has been widely assumed that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kendrick Meek would have a very tough time in a general election against either Marco Rubio or Charlie Crist.
Two recent polls, however, suggest the Miami representative could be mighty competitive against Rubio.
A Research 2000 poll for the liberal Daily Kos site released last week (margin of error plus or minus 4 percentage points) showed Meek with 40 percent support among likely voters and Rubio with 41 percent. In a matchup against Crist, Meek trailed 45 percent to 36 percent.
Among likely Republican voters, Rubio was crushing Crist 58 percent to 30 percent.
And if Crist ran as an independent, the poll showed him winning 29 percent support, compared to 27 percent for Meek and 32 percent for Rubio.
Another recent automated phone poll by Public Policy Polling survey found Meek trailing Rubio by 5 points and Crist by 13.
Add to the bill
Some curious charges showed up on the party credit card of then-Florida GOP executive director Delmar Johnson, including an Oct. 21 $359.20 charge for an airline ticket for Andrea Saul.
Saul, communications director for the Crist campaign, said she did not know why the supposedly neutral party paid for the ticket, and that the campaign paid the cost of the flight directly to American Express. She was working for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, at the time but flew down on a Sunday to attend a Crist campaign meeting at the Hyatt in Orlando.
Crist has hammered Rubio for excessive spending of donor money on Rubio's party credit card, so it was striking to see some Johnson charges directed at Crist's family: $213.97 for flowers listed as for Emory Wood, Crist's brother-in-law, and $96.30 for Carole Crist's birthday.
"That sounds excessive," Crist said when asked about the flowers for his wife.
Who paid what
Also among the intriguing charges on the Florida GOP credit card wielded by Johnson was $748 for state Florida House Speaker-to-be Chris Dorworth at the Palazzo Las Vegas — and $1,132 in airfare — when Crist was there raising money for his Senate campaign. Then-state GOP chairman Jim Greer, a good friend of Dorworth's, also went to the Palazzo — his tab was $1,120.
"I was requested to attend a series of finance meetings in Las Vegas by the RPOF. I attended per their request," Dorworth explained in an e-mail.
Did he also attend Crist's fundraiser at the Palazzo? "I did stop in the governor's fundraiser, but to be clear, that fundraiser was not my reason for being out there."
Weird that when we asked about Greer traveling with Crist during that October fundraising trip out West, the party said at the time that the chairman was paying his own way.
Check out Democratic consultant Bernie Campbell of Tampa today on Bay News 9 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Rubio to release tax returns
Rubio, whose personal finances and political spending has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, said he will release his tax returns before the August primary.
"Yeah, we will," he said, after addressing about 120 supporters in West Miami on Friday. "We're still going to complete 2009 and then at some point we'll do that, some time in early May."
Asked if he will amend his returns to reflect the $3,000 in additional income he received as a state lawmaker from double-billing the Republican Party and state taxpayers for eight plane fares from South Florida to Tallahassee, he said, "Our accountants are handling that."
Miami Herald staff writer Beth Reinhard contributed to this week's Buzz. Adam Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.